Organics

Waste in the Community Presents: The Seed Series with Jesi Taylor!

Written by Jesi Taylor

 

 

The values of communication and transparency are important in community-building spaces.

 

Which brings us to the primary topic at hand: waste, trash, refuse, garbage.

 

While out of sight and out of mind to many people, waste infrastructure and materials are connected to all beings on this planet in a complex, extensive kinship network. Not only does waste directly impact earth’s natural systems, soils, waters, and the beings who call them home, but waste also impacts our day-to-day lives as we navigate our social world. Unfortunately, the ways that waste impacts our day-to-day lives differ depending on factors such as race and class. The Seed Series seeks to demystify the processes that make that possible.

 

We don’t have any time to waste.

 

The Common Ground Compost Seed Series begins on February 7th and will introduce participants to key topics and issues in the world of discard studies; a growing, transdisciplinary field that centers how waste impacts our world. From the role of waste in pop culture to the lifesaving care work of sanitation workers to the relationship between death care and waste inequity, and so much more, this series serves as a point of departure for participants to learn more about how they can take action steps toward being anti-colonial in their approach to climate justice.

 

Each virtual event will take place over Zoom and last an hour with time for Q+A in the final 10-15 minutes. The host of the series is journalist, Discard Studies Co-Editor, philosophy graduate student, and TRUE Advisor Jesi Taylor, Common Ground Compost’s Education Advocacy Manager. Her work and research lies at the intersection of Black Studies, Genocide Studies, Ethics, and Legal Theory with a focus on how waste mismanagement disproportionately impacts criminalized and chronically disenfranchised communities.

 

The first two events of the series are free and the links to join are here: Seed Series 1: “Waste” As A Construct + Seed Series 2: Waste Colonialism and Inequity. The following eight events are pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation of $50 and tickets are available via Eventbrite. All funds will go toward expanding Common Ground Compost’s Equity, Justice, and Advocacy work through the Waste in the Community division led by Jesi Taylor.

 

The dates are as follows (click links for tickets!):

 

February 7th
Learn about the cultural evolution of the conceptions of “waste” and disposability.

 

February 28th
Learn about how the concept of “waste” perpetuates systems of violence and cultures of domination.

 

March 7th
Examine how disposability politics and waste inequity disproportionately and purposely impact certain communities.

 

March 14th
Learn about how the death care industry perpetuates waste colonialism and harms the environment.

 

March 21st
Learn about how humans have engaged with naturally occurring materials and waste materials to make art throughout history.

 

March 28th
Examine how themes related to waste in popular media impact how we relate to waste conceptually and in our daily lives.

 

April 4th
Learn about the lifesaving labor and care work of sanitation workers and why they need our support.

 

April 11th
Learn about the relationship between structural racism, colonialism, and food apartheid in the context of waste inequity.

 

April 18th
Examine how waste mismanagement impacts hydrological, agricultural, and soil-based systems on this planet.

 

April 25th
Learn about how colonialism impacts urban tree ecology, related planning initiatives, and conversations about urban green spaces.

 

Thank you and we hope to see you there!

 

Be sure to follow @commoncompost on Instagram for updates!

Composting to Honor World Ocean Day

By Jesi Taylor Cruz

 

World Ocean Day is June 8th! What began as a proposal at the 1992 Earth Summit has evolved into a globally observed, youth-led movement that culminates in over 2,000 events in over 140 countries every June. “On World Ocean Day, people everywhere can celebrate and take action for our shared ocean, which connects us all,” the official website states. Plus, with the help of countless free resources and toolkits, the World Ocean Foundation and Youth Advisory council make it easy for people to join in the global celebration, learn more about ocean conservation, and engage their neighbors in stewardship. But what does all of this have to do with composting? In a word: everything

It is important, and increasingly crucial, to honor the interconnectedness of Earth’s natural cycles and ecosystems, especially given the impact that climate change has on our environment, wildlife, and human society. From rising rates of microplastics in rain and arctic ice to the ways in which land pollution affects our planet’s water—and, in turn, the safety and health of all living beings on Earth—the relationship between soils and the ocean is complex and we owe it to ourselves and the planet to ensure that the relationship is healthy and harmless. Put simply, in order to heal our planet we must view our world as a dynamic ecosystem made up of interdependent and inextricably linked systems. 

A helpful way to illustrate these connections is to think about the relationship between New Yorkers and, what Riverkeeper refers to as, the sixth borough: the waters that surround us. New York City’s bridges and underwater tunnels remind us that we are navigating and living on islands even if the skyscrapers often block the waters from our view. Our care for and attention to the sixth borough mustn’t wait for or center times of emergency and disaster. While it is important to prepare for floods and sea level rise, emergencies that will worsen in levels of extremity as climate change continues, it is also important to acknowledge that our neighboring waters, and the animals and plants that call them home, are flowing every single day.  

The Hudson River, for instance, is a tidal estuary “where salt water from the ocean combines with freshwater from northern tributaries,” Riverkeeper explains. “Because the Hudson River is a tidal estuary, meaning it ebbs and flows with the ocean tide, it supports a biologically rich environment, making it an important ecosystem for various species of aquatic life. For many key species, it provides critical habitats and essential spawning and breeding grounds.” Further, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson River is one of the healthiest estuaries on the Atlantic Coast and “[serves] as valuable habitat for marine life while providing essential human services to coastal communities and the regional economy.” There are, of course, other local estuaries and waterways around and near New York City that we must protect. 

In addition to protecting local river ecologies, addressing harms to ecosystems caused by decades of toxins entering waterways, and preventing sewage pollution, we must also protect soils and reduce waste inequities on the Land. By improving soil health and eliminating the conditions of possibility for pollution on our streets—that is transported into waterways by stormwater—and in our greenspaces we can reduce the amount of toxins that make it to the water. One way to help improve soil health is to expand access to organic nutrient cycling in the city, a project that would also reduce the amount of harmful emissions from landfills here and states that import our waste. Of course, I’m referring to equitably increasing access to composting. 

Composting is the act of transforming organic matter from things like food scraps and yard materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment via a human-controlled, microbe-operated decomposition process. There are small-scale composting operations, some of which are so small they only involve processing food scraps in people’s homes, and those responsible for processing the waste of entire neighborhoods or cities. Whatever its size and scale, every composting site diverts waste from landfills and regenerates vital resources that can be used to improve soil health whether the soil is in a backyard garden or city park. 

Consequently, the improvement of soil health results in countless benefits that directly impact the health and safety of city residents while also managing stormwater runoff. Not to mention the long-term, large-scale benefits of carbon sequestration. Put simply, soil that lacks nutrients and microbial diversity is more prone to erosion, absorbing toxic chemicals, and losing the ability to grow food. The actions of some humans, from harmful land development practices to general lack of care of the Land, result in unhealthy and lifeless soil that, in turn, leads to decreased capacity for farming and food production as well as issues related to improper stormwater management, water conservation, and crop quality. In other words, when soil is healthy and home to extensive microbial diversity cities become more sustainable and the relationship between soils and waterways can start to truly heal. This is crucial in cities that are islands and have a complex relationship with multiple bodies of water.  

While the focus of this piece was New York City, this is a global issue that impacts billions of lives. On World Ocean Day, take the time to learn more about Earth’s natural cycles, the relationship between soils and oceans, and the ways in which composting can play a vital role in plans for protecting and healing our planet. We are connected by oceans and connected to soils. We don’t have time to waste on our journey toward climate justice. 

Photo from Alex Haney on unsplash.com

Watch: SaveOurCompost Hosts William Klimpert (CGC) and Sashti of WeRadiate Talk Data & Composting

 

 

Originally hosted on #SaveOurCompost’s Instagram page: Check out Shasti Balasundara, founder of WeRadiate in conversation with Common Ground Compost’s very own, William Klimpert! Listen as they chat about the vital role data plays when it comes to composting and organics recycling.

NYC’s Commercial Recycling Laws

NYC’s commercial recycling laws are hard to keep up with and key information is often difficult to find. Don’t stress! We’ll help you stay up to date and in compliance.

The most recent official notice regarding commercial recycling rules in NYC was released by the NYC Department of Sanitation on February 5, 2016. Link to the official notice here. The rules outlined within were put into effect on August 1, 2016 and, after a year-long “warning period”, will be enforceable by law starting August 1, 2017.

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Recycling compliance 101: Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to recycling responsibly and in compliance with the law.

  1. Contract with a licensed carter that fits your needs and handles your specific waste materials. If you are a tenant in a building, and your building management handles waste, the easiest way to see if they’re doing it right is to think about how you manage waste in your own space. Are you separating recyclables into clearly labeled bins and using one of three options: source-separated collection, co-collection, or single-stream collection (more detail below)?
    • Your business must post a sign somewhere visible from outside the building that names your carter(s) and the materials they collect, as well as which method they are using for collection.
    • If you prefer to self-transport your recyclables – this is rare – register here.
    • Property owners and building management must notify tenants of their waste management policies annually.
  2. Set your customers and staff up for waste management success!
    • All receptacles should have clear labels and colors indicating a specific waste category
    • Recyclables must always be kept separate from garbage, both when they are being thrown into a bag at a waste bin, and when they are collected in a truck by your hauling company.
    • Posting clear signs for both staff and customers will help prevent contamination, which is a major problem in the recycling industry.

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Wait, can I recycle this?

There are two different recycling streams in NYC:

  1. Metal, Glass, Plastic, and Beverage Cartons: This stream includes…
    • Metal cans, aluminum foil, and other disposable foil containers (rinse your recyclables! They don’t need to be sparkling clean, but they shouldn’t make a mess in the recycling bin).
    • Glass jars & bottles – tops too! And while you’re at it, if you separate the top or lid from the container, it’ll have a better chance of being recycled properly.
    • Rigid plastics such as empty yogurt cups, empty plastic beverage bottles and tops, or empty food containers (rinsed out).
    • Mixed metal & plastic objects, such as plastic chairs with metal legs or filing cabinets (just check with your hauler and/or building management first, most buildings have “bulk” collection days when it’s best to bring this material to the curb)
    • Paper beverage cartons and juice boxes
  2. Paper. This stream includes:
    • Receipts
    • Mail
    • Notepads
    • Folders
    • Newspapers and magazines
    • Cardboard, such as boxes from packages or paper towel rolls

image6And here’s what cannot be recycled:

  • Non-rigid plastics such as plastic wrap*, empty chip bags and plastic shopping bags
  • Foam (expanded polystyrene, or EPS) products such as foam coffee cups or foam takeout containers
  • Soiled or coated paper, such as coffee filters (which can be composted!) or paper takeout containers (which are coated with wax to prevent leaking).
  • Food scraps (but of course, they can be composted!)
  • Large Furniture or mattresses

*If plastic wrap, (clear plastic film, like the Saran Wrap brand), is clean and dry, it CAN be recycled, but sometimes it must be collected separately from other recyclables. If your business produces lots of clean and dry wrap, we recommend that you contact your hauling company to discuss options for recycling it.

A couple extra things to note regarding…

  • TEXTILES: If textiles make up more than 10% of your business’s waste, you are required by law to recycle all fabric scraps, clothing, belts, bags, and shoes. For more information on this visit refashionNYC. We are also big fans of FabScrap, an organization dedicated to helping recycle commercial fabric scraps.
  • YARD OR PLANT WASTE: If yard or plant waste makes up more than 10% of your business’s waste, you are required to recycle it separately from other recyclables. This includes plant waste, grass clippings, garden debris, leaves, and branches.
  • ORGANICS: Certain large, food-waste generating business are required to separate their organics for composting. Much more on this here.

There are the three acceptable recycling systems for most* businesses:

  1. Source-Separated Recycling: As the name suggests, this system requires the business (source) to separate their three streams of waste (glass/metal/plastic recyclables, mixed paper, landfill garbage) for collection by three separate trucks.
  2. Co-Collection Recycling: Some haulers may be permitted to collect more than one type of recycling in a single truck. The business (the source) would still put mixed paper in one bag, and glass/metal/plastic in another, but the carter could legally put these two different recycling streams into the same truck for collection and transit to a recycling facility. In this case, buildings must post a sign indicating that co-collection is being used and the name of the authorized carter.
  3. Single-Stream Recycling (also referred to as “mixed recycling”): In this scenario the source (business) is only handling two waste streams – (recyclables & paper) and garbage – to be collected by two separate trucks. Glass/metal/plastic, and mixed paper go into the same bag, and are collected by a recycling truck.

*For businesses that produce +10% of their waste in textiles, yard waste, or organics, additional procedures are required.

In ALL cases, it is illegal for a hauling company to collect recyclable waste in the same truck as trash. If you see black trash bags in the same truck as clear or colored recycling bags, red flag! Something is amiss. (It’s true that trucks break down, or sometimes there’s a one-off collection that doesn’t go as planned, but if you see this consistently, you should give us a call.)

Why are there so many options? Does it really have to be this complicated? The main source of complication lies in the fact that recycling facilities and hauling companies are typically separate entities. Sometimes a recycling facility will have their own hauling operation, which results in better communication from source to plant and more accountability on the side of the haulers. Regardless, the City is moving towards a single-stream system, so in time, we’ll be seeing more “mixed recycling” and less “source separated recycling”, leaving the complicated stuff to the experts. Until then, the consumer still has to put in the leg work to ensure that their recycling is being properly processed. (Interested in seeing a dedicated post on Single-Stream Recycling, or anything else? Contact us!)

Consider this scenario: a business is set up with source-separated recycling, but they aren’t properly separating their recyclables into two different streams (mixed paper / plastic, metal, glass). Their mixed paper hauler picks up what looks to them like the mixed paper recycling bags and brings them to a recycling plant that processes mixed paper. That plant, which might not have the sorting technology to deal with glass, metal, and plastic, has to manually sort through these bags and might treat anything that’s not mixed paper as trash. In this scenario, more work has been created for the facility (or the hauler, depending on the relationship that exists between hauler and recycling facility), to sort the unacceptable items (an economic hardship), and many perfectly recyclable products might go to the landfill.

We have some good news, which is that new recycling facilities are putting specialized technology in place to separate lots of types of recyclables. We will be seeing more and more of these facilities in the future. For now, not all commercial hauling companies have relationships with these specialized facilities. The NYC Business Integrity Commission has a specific form for haulers to complete when they wish to collect Single Stream (mixed recycling) from commercial clients, which asks them to identify the destination (the specific recycling facility) for the recyclable materials. If you are unsure about your hauler’s Single Stream recycling process, the easiest thing to do is to ask if they have submitted this application to BIC.

Now get sorting!