Updated: May 10, 2018
Tessa and I are garbage geeks. It's been a shared passion that's brought us closer together. We first met at an environmental get-together when we gravitated toward the same "zero waste" working group. Ever since, we've been collaborating on ways to redirect wasted resources and build a circular economy. In the process, we fell in love. Starting ScrapDogs Community Composting together is really about sharing this love that we have (for each other, for our community, and for trash) and making a living out of it. If you want to, I guess you could call it a garbage love story.
In 2015 we created an organization together called Return Recycling to build zero-waste pathways for educational institutions. We worked with NYU for two years doing waste characterizations (aka digging through trash for data) in common areas of the main academic building. We learned a lot about the waste industry in the process. It gave us an appreciation for product design and the economics of recycled/recovered materials. Because roughly half of most municipal solid waste is organic, building compost programs is the lowest hanging fruit for most budding waste reduction programs. We regularly advocated for it as an institutionalized process at NYU. With bureaucratic pushback, we became fascinated by the trials of composting efforts in NYC and sought to better understand the process. It’s been an ongoing effort for us. Since we graduated in 2016, Tessa and I have worked full-time and tried to build Return Recycling on the side.
Over time, Tessa and I have been forced to acknowledge that, despite our involvement in fulfilling work, neither of us are really that inspired by NYC - or happy living in it. I grew up in Rockport, Maine and continued to talk Tessa’s ears off about the kinds of experiences I had there. I must have been a broken record. The ocean, the hiking, the people, the lifestyle… She returned the favor by telling me more about her love for Cape Cod. It was always clear to the two of us that we enjoyed time outside of the “urban spectrum." Whenever we could get away, we’d travel upstate to spend time near New Paltz or Beacon, NY, but the commute dragged on us. In many ways I think we both felt trapped by the city and its sprawling buildings. Our friends were leaving the city to live in Vermont and California... we were holding on to our careers here, and questioning our own motives. Where could we go, and do what we love?
Sometime during the spring of 2017, the Midcoast Waste Watch issued a report on residential waste disposal behaviors. One of the main findings of the report was that residents needed help with compost and organics collection. Because of the work that we were doing with Return Recycling, the report kind of jumped out at Tessa and me. It represented an opportunity to make an enormous difference in a community that I cared a lot about - and that could provide Tessa