In New York City, around a third of all residential garbage is compostable yard waste and food scraps. But an unfortunate amount of that good biodegradable stuff winds up in landfills. Ceci Pineda and their crew at nonprofit BK ROT are out to change that. 

“Composting is an accessible process in which we can take responsibility and determine how we actually want to live,” Pineda says. To make that process super easy for New Yorkers, BK ROT’s staffers — young people of color from the community — venture out on bikes to collect compostables from homes and businesses, and bring the scraps back to the organization’s site to turn into high-quality humus. 

To date, the org has transformed more than 550,000 pounds of food waste into soil-enriching compost, all the while generating income for the young haulers. “We’re a small model compared to the city’s huge footprint,” Pineda says, “but we see ourselves modeling a closed-loop service through which we can responsibly manage our waste.” 

This year’s Grist 50 features five short documentaries on innovators like Pineda: emerging leaders — we call them Fixers — who are tackling climate and justice from every imaginable angle. Check out this video to learn more about Pineda and see the BK ROT team in action.  

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Discover more Grist 50 honorees working toward a more sustainable, equitable world:

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