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CCC Workshop - Part 1: Key Ingredients of Community Composting [Guy Schaffer, Bk ROT]
Key Ingredients of
Guy Schaffer, BK ROT Board Member
Cultivating Community Compost Roundtable
January 23, 2017 / Los Angeles, CA
BK ROT is a bike-based, youth-powered
composting service based out of
We collect from households and
We compost at a city-owned park space.
We sell or donate finished compost to
gardens and households.
The project was founded in 2013 by Sandy
Nurse, and she has co-facilitated it with
Renee Peperone since then.
• 2 youth workers
• $675 in youth stipends
• 36 households
• 707 lbs/year
• Hosted by a local community center
• 7 youth workers
• $15,837 in youth stipends
• 80 households and 6 commercial accounts
• 37,814 lbs/year
• Managing its own garden
BK ROT works to introduce an
alternative set of values into the
design of organics recycling
systems in New York City:
• Creating good work that is safe, self-
directed, and respected; and training
youth of color for these jobs.
• Building local resource cycles that
are sustainable and benefit local
• Celebrating the labor that goes into
I came to BK ROT in 2014 as a Ph.D. candidate
interested in local compost systems.
Informal infrastructures: those built outside
the realms of formal planning; the often
minimal resources, under-compensated
are designed improvisationally.
What allows informal compost systems to
form, function, and create changes in the
waste system of New York City?
• City support for local compost:
• Grants for community
• Land resources.
• Training for composting experts.
• The creation of a market for
• Resources available through
• Space for hosting compost.
• Fundraising networks.
• Volunteer labor.
• Nonprofit, small business, and
• The incredible commitment of
• Design of workflow makes
composting into good work.
• Design of space makes
composting into public work.
• Nonprofit status offers stability,
but also puts more pressure on
BK ROT is designed with the values of
good work in mind:
• Meaningful work
• Safe work
• Educational work
• Respected work
• Positive, healthy work environments
Bikers pick up food scraps from
households and businesses, and
bring them back to KnowWaste
Lands for processing.
At KWL, workers chop up food
scraps, mix them with browns, and
add them to the four-bin system.
Frequently, customers stop by to
drop off food scraps; they either pay
a fee or chop the scraps themselves.
The youth workers turn the piles
once a week on Sunday workdays.
After three months, material from
the bins is added to the windrows
and covered with overs.
BK ROT uses a diversity of
• Worm bin
Experimentation is built into the
system; tumblers serve as a space to
practice with new methods.
This allows us to accommodate
different kinds of involvement from
Sifting is mostly done by volunteers.
Overs are added back to pile or used
as windrow covering.
Youth are in charge of this
composting space; they regularly
have to direct and educate
volunteers and customers.
KnowWaste Lands has been designed
to nurture a specific idea of what waste
infrastructure can feel like.
• Open location.
• Public art.
• Attractive garden with central
• Youth and coordinators keeping
“…the prettiest dump in town.”
KWL is located at the corner of two
busy streets, under a subway station,
between two bus stops.
It is open on two sides, and is inviting as
It is surrounded by commercial spaces:
a grocery store, pawn shop, pizza shop,
café, bodega, and bar are all within
view of the space.
Public art in the space was designed by
artists of color based on ideas
generated by long-term residents of
The majority of KWL is devoted to
The compost at KWL occupies a raised
central space, and the bins are both
functional and handsome.
The concrete pad puts the compost on
display and also provides a solid
platform for chopping, mixing, and
The presence of youth workers,
volunteers, and coordinators makes the
space open and inviting whenever
people are working.
The BK ROT system makes compost
inviting to neighbors. It puts waste
management on display.
“We need to learn how to live with waste.”
In 2015, BK ROT was able to
register as a 501(c)3, as a training
This may not be the final evolution
of BK ROT, but it has been helpful
in some ways.
Nonprofit status has enabled us
• Participate in larger, municipal
• Insure our bikers.
• Participate in the BIC
The process of filing has been
difficult; the shift from informal to
formal structure has required
work that is difficult for our
minimal organizational staff.
Intentional construction of community:
Who is the community?What do they
they want?What community builds it?
builds it?What community uses it?
Institutional support: municipal space
for composting, educational and
material resources, funding.
Support for organizers: more robust
funding systems that can allow the
important work of running green space
to be compensated, regardless of
Or Sandy and Renee: