Waste NOT (currently Waste Binn) is a regional program focused on innovation in sustainable food systems, specifically, food waste management. Since its inception in June 2019, the program has created educational and experiential opportunities for youth entrepreneurs building innovative solutions to address local food waste issues. And we’re just getting started with food waste. The future of this program will expand to include additional types of waste: water, e-waste, and agricultural bi-products, all critical parts of the ecosystem. We’ll be seeking involvement from larger audiences and new demographics as we tackle new challenges in our communities.
Every year, 60 percent of all fresh produce sold in the United States arrives through the port of entry in Nogales, Arizona. Over 6,000 tons of that produce, much of it still fresh, ends up in the Rio Rico landfill. With a proper system in place, that surplus of 12 million pounds of produce could be turned into value-added food products, fertile compost for use in households or commercial ventures, as well as so much more.
Waste Binn: Borderlands Waste Innovation engages young people in exploring the issues surrounding that surplus through ethnographic research, hands-on workshops, and entrepreneurial education. Youth participants researched both household and industrial waste practices, trained in backyard sustainability efforts such as composting and gardening, and developed entrepreneurial skills to creatively target and solve waste problems in the region.
The program creates opportunities for youth to see themselves as problem solvers in their own community. Throughout, they learn the importance of building partnerships, ethical practices of community engagement, and traditional knowledge to inform solutions to community needs. The program has three components:
Gathering of Stories
Young people are trained in ethnography skills to document food waste management and begin changing the narrative around consumption. Through their primary research they learn of best practices that come from food traditions at home or in the industry so that they deeply understand the problems that community members are facing in regards to food waste management. See the stories they created here. (link to download)
With a deep understanding of the problem faced by the community, teams develop ideas that could be viable, real-life business opportunities. They are assisted by the Startup Unidos team, they receive mentorship from entrepreneurs in the region and our network of key partners, and they meet with industry leaders so they can create innovation solutions with applications that address the problems with the highest potential for impact. The desired outcome is less waste and more economic stimulation that would not have existed otherwise.
We have come to know that engaging with and educating the communities that are experiencing challenges like these is the best way for real progress to be made. So we show up and meet them where they are. Our educational pop-ups build greater community awareness and form new connections between different organizations, businesses, and people in the sustainability realm across the borderlands. If we’re able to travel and convene together then this looks like field trips and workshops. If not, these educational pop-ups are held virtually.
University of Arizona’s Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and
UArizona Southwest Folk Alliance
UArizona Office of Sustainability / Compost Cats
FPAA: Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Morris A. Hazan Family Foundation
This program is super meaningful. Not only for developing skills that will help them in the future, but they are making a meaningful contribution to their community. That is the key part. They are empowering their own environment and that’s how change happens. From the inside out.
Take a look at some of the ways we measure the impact we had with just 1 year later.
Educational & Experimental Lessons
Tons of Fresh Frood