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Resilience in Our Compost Community

By Sara Mack                                                                                                                                                                                Communications Intern at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Over the past several weeks, we have been inspired by the resiliency and fast-acting creativity we have witnessed throughout the composting community. At Bootstrap, we love taking notes and learning from our friends and colleagues fighting the good fight against food waste. 

Most recently, we were particularly inspired by OffBeat Compost. Based out of the Merrimack Valley (not too far from us),  they have transitioned from traditional curbside pick-up to a social distancing-friendly model of compost drop off. Offbeat uses a few strategically placed full-size compost toters with padlocks to allow their customer base to individually deposit their food scraps at any point throughout the week. By providing customers with the lock combination, they can ensure that their service is still exclusive to their customer-base while putting public safety at the forefront.

Within the larger compost community, the U.S. Compost Council has been producing regular webinars relating to composting during the COVID-19 crisis. According to data collected by the Compost Council, although 69% of composting entities are continuing “business as usual”, 14.07% have paused their service, and everyone else has been heavily impacted. Additionally, 17% of composting entities have had to lay off staff and 22% have reduced their staff more generally. These webinars, in addition to providing necessary information about how the virus behaves in relation to activities connected with processing organics, allow business owners to share the creative strategies they are employing to keep their customers and employees safe during this uncertain time. Some of the most popular strategies being used include asking customers to wipe down the handles of their buckets and/or not accepting paper towels and tissues for the time being. At Bootstrap, we took these strategies to heart as we developed our own re-opening measures. 

One of the most alarming pieces of compost-related news that has surfaced in the recent weeks is the decision made by New York City government to halt all organic waste pick up sponsored by the city until June 2021. This decision was based on recent budget cuts made in wake of the COVID-19 economic downturn. According to Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a press release published by the city of New York on April 17, “these service reductions will allow the City to maintain emergency services and its core municipal services.” Although it goes without saying that everyone is being forced to make hard decisions in order to soften the blow of such vast unemployment, the loss of such a robust compost program is still a difficult pill to swallow for many New Yorkers. 

In the wake of the closure of NYC’s city-wide compost service, small businesses like Reclaimed Organics in Manhattan are stepping up to the plate and expanding their service area. Reclaimed Organics features bike-powered compost pick up, so expanding their reach is a big project — but very necessary when waste pick-up options are otherwise limited in the area. 

It’s this kind of creativity, drive, and ingenuity that helps to keep us going! Even beyond our New England bubble, it’s tremendous to see the resilience among compost haulers as we work together to reduce food waste, improve soil quality, and, most importantly, keep our communities safe.. 

All told, on the week of May 4 we were able to resume our residential service by reducing the number of team members we have in our warehouse at a time, making sure that our drivers and staff have necessary PPE, and employing additional sanitizing regiments. Reflecting on the incredible work done by like-minded folks at organizations like OffBeat has inspired us to continue to stay creative and passionate about our mission. Although we are thrilled to be back, we know the threat of the virus is still very real. For that reason, we remain vigilant and dedicated to staff and customer safety. 

Have questions about our service or composting in a time of COVID-19 – please send them our way. In the meantime, stay safe and compost on.