Green Jobs For B’Wick Youth: BK ROT in the Ridgewood Times

Local Reporter, Max Jaeger of the Ridgewood Times, wrote a feature about BK ROT last month.  Read article below.  To see the photos, check out the link:

http://www.timesnewsweekly.com/news/2013-12-12/Feature_Stories/Green_Jobs_For_BWick_Youth.html

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Green Jobs For B’Wick Youth

Local Group Employs Kids, Teaches Composting
story and photos by Max Jaeger

Victor Ibarra, a junior at the Bushwick Campus High School, spends his Sunday afternoons collecting organic household waste for BK Rot, a composting program that employs local students.

Luis Rodriguez, a high school senior, adds grass and leaves to household waste to aid the decomposition process.The high school junior works weekends for BK Rot, an upstart that collects compostable household waste, turns it into nutrient-rich soil and distributes it to local urban gardens and community members.

On a freezing Sunday in December, Victor Ibarra, 17, is gearing up for a two-hour bicycle ride through Bushwick— and he isn’t doing it for his health.

The program, which started in August with 7 members, now serves about two dozen households inBushwick, Ridgewood, northern Bed-Stuy and East Williamsburg— all while employing local youth, according to founder Sandy Nurse.

Ibarra said he has been with the company since the beginning. He helped build the compost bins at BK Rot’s St. Nicholas Avenue headquarters and currently handles the bulk of Sunday collections.

Nurse said she got connected to Ibarra through the Bushwick Campus Farm’s summer food justice internship program and hired him because he lived nearby and was interested in carpentry.

“We’d do the runs together, pretty much for a month, and then he just took off on his own,” she said.

Ibarra said he gets a list of pickup locations each week before making his rounds. BK Rot members leave their compost in bright green bags in front of their apartments to make pickup easier, he said.

Back at the base, Nurse and Luis Rodriguez, a senior at the Bushwick Campus, add waste to the compost bins and mix it with leaves and other materials to aid the transformation from trash to fertilizer.

The site has three bins so far, and workers are in the process of building a fourth. Nurse said they’ll keep building as the bins fill, but BK Rot may soon seek a larger space. Currently the churches that share space 176 St. Nicholas Avenue let BK Rot use the building’s side yard for operations.

Lilly Belanter has used the service since the beginning.

Prior to becoming a member, she composted at home and carried food scraps to community gardens when she had the time.

“Which, as you can imagine, is a huge pain,” she said.

When she saw that BK Rot was seeking donations, she contributed and later became a member.

“It’s made my life so much easier,” she said.

She keeps her food scraps in a lidded receptacle provided by BK Rot. She puts the bin in her freezer to keep it from smelling.

She said her house actually smells better now that she is keeping organic waste out of her trash can. Composting also supports local agriculture and saves the city money on waste-hauling costs, she added.

Laura Rosenshine is another fan of the program. She said she is in the preliminary stages of starting a similar operation inManhattan.

Rosenshine, who works for food waste solutions firm Global Enviro, said she is considering partnering with the Lower East Side Ecology Center to duplicate Nurse’s business.

“I love Sandy’s model, because it builds relationships with the community and local gardens,” Rosenshine said. “Creating jobs for kids and connecting them to the environment—it’s all really good.”

And it all started with a simple idea and a little seed money.

Nurse came up with the plan earlier this year and fleshed it out with the help of the Bushwick Eco Action Network, a local environmental and food justice group.

She started BK Rot with $350 in donations raised through an online fund-raising tool.

The donations paid for two bikes, building materials and the first run of promotional fliers.

She said the BK Rot is intended to be self-sustaining, but needs a few more members. Nurse pays her workers $15 an hour. She volunteers her own time and said she’d like to generate enough revenue to pay a shift supervisor—ideally a local students—to do her job.

BK Rot’s membership fee is $45 for three-months. Users can also purchase a drop-off membership for $10 a month, which allows them to bring their waste to BK Rot’s site for deposit it in composting bins. IN addition, residents can pay $5 for a one-time drop-off, Nurse said.

All members get a small home collection bin and a bag of compost once it’s ready.

Nurse said she’ll distribute whatever is left of the yield to local community gardens.

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