With Earth Day right around the corner, we thought it was a great time to shine a spotlight on a brilliant New York-based initiative. McQueens Flowers NYC have been working with Reclaimed Organics since Fall 2020 - after searching for a company to recycle our green waste. We sat down with their Operations Manager, Gwen Ossenfort to discover more about this growing social-enterprise.
Hello Gwen, thank you for joining us on the McQueens Flowers journal. We've been working with your fantastic team for over 6 months now, for those who may not have heard of your initiative, could you tell us a little more about it?
Sure - Reclaimed Organics started out in 2014 - we’re a social enterprise offering a bike-powered compost micro-hauling service to residents and businesses in Manhatten. We offer a concierge compost collection service to a variety of small generators including offices, restaurants and residences. We help customers divert food scraps from landfills as well as supporting their understanding on why its important to keep the food scraps out of the trash.
Approximately how much organic waste do you collect in a year?
In 2020 it was an incredible 44 tons, generated from around 255 clients! In 2019, we collected 113 tons, so you can see the huge reduction in material since the pandemic.
What happens to the compost you create?
The food scraps collected by RO end up at commercial processing sites in and around New York City that produce nutrient-rich, garden-ready finished compost. Using an enclosed aerated static pile system in a garden in the East Village of Manhattan, RO is able to hyper-locally process a small amount of food scraps into compost and provide that material for free to community gardeners.
What was your journey to setting up Reclaimed Organics - has it always been an area of interest for you?
RO was founded by Laura Rosenshine in 2014, in response to the need for small scale food scrap generators, like coffee shops and restaurants, to have access to composting options. These smaller businesses don't generate enough material for a large commercial hauler: a coffee shop will set aside 10 - 20 gallons of coffee grounds in a week. A large commercial hauler would have a minimum of 60+ gallons. RO is the perfect fit as a microhauler -- small generators are our niche. RO has always been bike-powered and in 2018, we got our first electric pedal-assist cargo trike, "Thunder". We can haul up to 600 pounds of material at a time. Most of the people who work for us started as haulers, collecting food scraps from businesses and residents, and working their way into different roles as the company has grown. Haulers have a special combination of City cycling prowess, a firm belief in the role of compost in a closed loop system and tolerance for handling other people's food waste.
You work with both residents and businesses - what range of waste do you compost?
RO will collect anything that is certified compostable (anything that was once alive). Along with fruit and vegetable scraps, we also take meat, bones, dairy products AND FLOWERS! As well as BPI Certified compostable service ware, like bowls, plates, cups and paper towels. Because our composting partners allow these materials, we are able to collect them.
What's next for Reclaimed Organics?
Along with our parent company Common Ground Compost, RO will continue to advocate for reinstatement of NYC's residential compost program and retention of a small but mighty network of hyper-local composting sites through #SaveOurCompost. As a founding member of the newly formed Microhaulers & Processors Trade Association (MPTA), RO will retain an active role in the creation of Commercial Waste Zones throughout the City to ensure that microhaulers are included in development of zoning plans. And RO will keep hauling food scraps by eTrike from residents and businesses in Manhattan (south of 110th St) while running our compost Pop Up Drop Off every Wednesday from 4 - 6 PM at West 107th and Columbus.
Compost never sleeps.
You can follow Reclaimed Organics on Instagram for daily updates here.