Editorial: It Takes A Community

Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle July 2013, Vol. 54, No. 7, p. 4

This is a golden age for environmental reforms for stadiums and arenas at both the professional and collegiate level. It introduces the vocabulary of environmental stewardship, and of recycling and composting, to 20 million people every week.” That statement by Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and director of its Sports Greening Project, is in the first paragraph of this month’s Special Report on Sports Venue Greening (starting on page 20).

Every week, 20 million people are getting exposed to recycling and composting. That’s a staggering number. And an incredible opportunity to plant seeds for environmental behavior change. The number of programs being instituted at sports venues is growing. “It is now to the point that if you don’t have a successful recycling program, you’re in the minority,” says Martin Tull, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit organization with a mission to enhance the environmental performance of sports team, venues and leagues.

At PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, 646.7 tons of source separated food waste and compostable products were diverted to the AgRecycle, Inc. composting facility outside of the city of Pittsburgh in 2012 (see “Home Run For Organics Recycling,” p. 27). That was up from 130.7 tons in 2009. “This season — and this is only the half-way point — we’ve already collected 453.1 tons,” says Carla Castagnero, president of AgRecycle. “I’ve been told that the Pirates organization’s goal, after a sold out game of approximately 40,000 fans, is to generate no more than 20 50-gallon bags of true trash. They aren’t there yet, but they are definitely moving in that direction.”

In Vermont, with a law banning all organics from disposal by 2020, strategies are being implemented to create composting capacity and source separation behavior. Vermont is a pretty rural state, with a lot of small communities. A solution to how to service these communities has been hatched by the Highfields Center for Composting, based in Hardwick, Vermont. Its Close The Loop program offers composting services — including education and training — to municipalities, composting facilities, schools, businesses and haulers. The goal is to develop decentralized — community-based — composting programs tailored to specific regions of the state. An article on a Close The Loop program in the Northeast Kingdom starts on page 38 (see “Vermont Districts Closing The Loop On Food Waste Diversion.”) A collection trailer acquired by Highfields is provided to a local hauler to service a food waste route. A local organic farmer is composting the organics.

Another example of creating “communities of composting” can be found in David Buckel’s Commentary on page 62 (“Why Big And Small Organics Recyclers Need Each Other”). One of my favorite lines in the commentary highlights why community composting in New York City is so effective: “Many volunteers get hooked on composting, the gateway drug to the broader world of recycling, because composting is one of the few volunteer jobs that gets people directly involved in creating value with recyclables. And they become vigilant about contaminants because they are picking stuff out of tons of material with their own hands.”

From fans at professional sports venues around the country, to the school kids separating food scraps at lunch in Vermont, to the volunteers working to divert New York City’s food scraps, people are engaged in organics recycling. Each example in this month’s issue of BioCycle proves that it takes a community to make sustainable (and permanent) change a reality.

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