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Brooklyn Compost Brooklyn Compost
Photo: Andreana Bitsis

Brooklyn Now Has An Uber-Style Service For Compost

Compost can often seem like a hassle, especially in a city like New York. While drop-off points at farmers markets have made the process easier, sometimes the idea of carrying a bag of semi-decomposed food to work in the Summer is (understandably) not the most appealing.

Which is where BK ROT comes in.

Founded in 2013, BK ROT is a community supported compost venture that picks up food scraps from residential and commercial locations around Brooklyn. In addition to their obvious environmental dimension, BK ROT also creates sustainable, year-round jobs for youth by sending them out on bikes to collect the organic waste; in this way, BK ROT’s work situates itself at the intersection of social and environmental justice.

“The project recognizes the history of waste mismanagement in New York City’s predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods– the incinerators, the industrial run off, the lack of sufficient trash collection, and the exclusion of people of color from city sanitation jobs in the past,” Sandy Nurse, BK ROT’s founder, explains to us of the organization’s mission. “It also acknowledges the youth in these neighborhoods grow up experiencing disproportionately higher asthma rates, lack of sufficient access to health services, and higher unemployment rates.”

With more and more individuals and organizations looking for ways to engage and take action (as the United States government continues to dig in its heels regarding Climate Change), the connection between compost and environmental justice is becoming an increasingly relevant one.

“Composting is one of the most important acts an individual or a community can do for our planet. We strip over 1″ of top soil a year off the Earth’s crust and we don’t replace it. Building soils through composting is so critical in fighting Climate Change and supporting the ecosystems that sustain us,” Nurse explains.

But as Nurse emphasizes, it isn’t just a matter of protecting the environment, it’s about rethinking the systems and mechanisms that have brought us to this point.

“Environmental justice is a framework that departs from large main stream environmental movements by centering anti-colonial and anti-racism principles at its core,” Nurse continues. “It asks us to address not only the harm we have done and are doing to this planet, but to recognize the communities that have been the most devastated by the social, political and economic systems created to extract and destroy. It is a call to action to center the leadership of those communities, to follow their ancestral wisdom and guidance, and to work with them, not over them.”

Photo: Andreana Bitsis

In the three years since their founding, the response to BK ROT has been overwhelmingly positive. Since 2014, they’ve expanded to serve 97 unique households in total, collected an average of 5,000/mo in 2016, and generated over $30,000 in income for their workers. The compost they produce at their No Waste Lands site on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn is sold to local residents, schools, non-profits, and community gardens, and is stocked at small businesses like GRDN, The Sill, Sprout Home, and Supercrown Coffee.

Currently, BK ROT only serves Bushwick and BedStuy (at an extremely affordable $20 a month for residences) but Nurse affirms they are looking to expand.

But that doesn’t mean she isn’t pleased with the way things currently stand. As Nurse reflects of BK ROT and the ecosystem it has created, “We’re really lucky because our clients are really excited to be composting locally and supporting local youth. They’re really committed to building sustainability and a hyperlocal economy.”

To learn more about BK ROT or to sign up for their services, visit their website.

Curious about other ways you can use food scraps? Try making a facial steam from plants you would otherwise compost. 

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