WHAT IS BK ROT?
BK ROT is a community-supported composting operation that generates year-round environmental jobs for local youth in Bushwick, Brooklyn. BK ROT youth workers collect organic waste from residents and small businesses and community institutions by bike, and process the material at our compost site, Know Waste Lands.
Our primary mission is to work at the intersection of the social and environmental injustices impacting youth of color from the neighborhood and the health of our community and larger ecosystem. We believe the fight against the systems that generate environmental destruction and social inequality must be community-led, and must empower those most affected by these crises.
We envision a city where the environmental progress made at the policy levels are inclusive of those most excluded from the current opportunities for meaningful environmental jobs. We see great potential for grassroots efforts at the neighborhood level to experiment with solutions to combat climate change while creating genuine space and opportunity for young adults to drive these efforts.
Since BK ROT’s August 2013 inception, we have accomplished major institutional and operational growth, and increased our community impact:
- We expanded from employing one to five youth workers and from serving 7 households to 53 (97 unique households in total).
- We collect from four local businesses.
- We increased the amount of organic waste that we process by 500% our first year, and 150% our second.
- We went from collecting 330lbs/mo in 2013 to an average of 5,000/mo in 2016.
- We have generated over $30,000 in income for our workers.
- We manage a 2,500 square foot garden via a license with the NYC Parks Department.
- We partner with over 15 local organizations.
HOW DID BK ROT START?
Back in 2012, BK ROT Founder, Sandy Nurse, put together a strategy for collecting organic waste by bike. She was working a restaurant bike delivery job and began thinking of other opportunities for paid work through bike transport. With the support of Zak Miller (now our Board Treasurer) they realized micro-hauling and processing organic waste could be an opportunity for local youth to work a part-time job. Sandy began looking for places to set up shop, which led her to use 596 Acres’ online vacant land mapping tool and leading her 1278 Myrtle Avenue.
In March 2013, Sandy met Renée at a 596 Acres meeting while working to gain access to 1278 Myrtle Avenue to create a local compost site. Renée had just started a Bushwick environmental project, Bushwick Eco Action Network (BEAN) and the group was looking to support environmental projects in the neighborhood. It was through this partnership that BK ROT began piloting pickup from 7 households and secured a place to build composters to process collected food scraps. With both Sandy and Renée now co-facilitating the project and the addition of Victor, BK ROT’s first biker and composter, BK ROT began to serve the Bushwick community in August 2013.
Our first site was at the Bushwick Abbey in the side garden area of the Episcopal Church (now the Mayday Space). Partnering with Jason of Bushwick City Farms and members of the congregation of Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, we built four compost bins. We remained there for about six months where we grew to collect from 33 households and hired two more youth (Luis and Shayna).
Through partnering with Maggie from Ecostation:NY, we met Victor, our first biker (still with us today). Victor’s leadership helped us determine feasibility and allowed us to make adjustments to the project’s operations. Victor’s carpentry skills also was instrumental in building out much of our composting infrastructure.
In late winter, we started moving into El Garden at 120 Jefferson St. From there, we built out compost bins and went on to collect over 20 tons of food scraps and processed it into many cubic yards of compost. During out time at El Garden we were able to build out our advocacy efforts, begin selling our finished compost, and alongside our workers collectively expand our operations.
Now entering out fourth year, we have fully transitioned into Know Waste Lands, also known as 1278 Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. We’ve been building it out over the last year and its become our lovely new home.