Editor’s note: We’re chronicling how tech is changing the way we eat and drink as we lead up to this fall’s Food Loves Tech. Our annual deep dive into appropriate food and ag technologies returns to Industry City on November 2–3, 2018—stay tuned for updates and check out this year’s lineup here.
Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli and Laura Rosenshine see opportunity in the things most New Yorkers casually toss in the waste bin. The women are the force behind Common Ground Compost, a company working to make New York City greener.
You may have spotted their signage, recycling or compost equipment at this year’s Taste of Williamsburg, Harvest in the Square or at last year’s NYC Marathon Pasta Dinner. And, you’ll be able to see them in action at Food Loves Tech, where they’ll be helping make our deep dive into the future of food a zero-waste event. Common Ground Compost’s work to make events zero waste, defined as an event that diverts 90 percent or more material from landfills through recycling and composting, is just one part of the organization’s mission to help businesses, schools and events compost and recycle.
“Our city’s infrastructure doesn’t fit our needs yet,” says director of Common Ground Compost, Danberg-Ficarelli. “Residential and commercial waste are split, where on the commercial side, all businesses get their waste services from private companies. There are about 90 licensed haulers, but not every provider offers the same services and only a handful offer composting.”
That’s where Common Ground Compost comes in. At its core, Common Ground Compost is a consulting service helping businesses of all sizes, from small restaurants to large hotels and catering institutions, add composting programs. They’ll review current waste hauler contracts, train staff, provide custom signage and products, all around composting and recycling.
Common Ground Compost came out of a need Rosenshine saw for businesses to train and educate staff on composting when she started a small compost collection program called Reclaimed Organics, which Common Ground Compost still runs. Reclaimed Organics collects compost by bike from businesses in Manhattan that are too small (or are otherwise not ideally structured) to be served by larger haulers.
From those early days Common Ground Compost has grown organically to provide additional services. They work with schools to add food scrap recycling to cafeterias and classrooms. At Friends Seminary, one of Reclaimed Organics’ initial clients, Common Ground Compost redid their waste stations and signage and has created programs geared to students at various age levels, such as a chat with seniors and juniors on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the time of President Trump.
“It’s similar to our consulting work where we build out waste management systems while also making sure students are engaged,” says Danberg-Ficarelli.
As New York City continues to require more and more businesses to compost, Common Ground Compost services will likely continue to evolve.
“The bigger challenge than access to services is we don’t have adequate space,” says Danberg-Ficarelli. If everyone started separating their food scraps tomorrow, we wouldn’t have enough space to compost all the material.”
Photos courtesy of Common Ground Compost.