WASTE NOT: Borderlands Innovation in Food Waste Management

Waste Not Students

Nogales, AZ

Photographer: Stephanie Bermudez


WASTE NOT: Borderlands Innovation in Food Waste Management is a Startup Unidos program that has been running regionally in partnership with the University of Arizona’s (UA) Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, UA Southwest Folk Alliance and UA Office of Sustainability/Compost Cats. To date, the program has created educational and experiential opportunities for youth entrepreneurs building innovative solutions to local food waste issues. In the future, the program will expand to include larger audiences and new demographics and tackle new types of waste (waster, e-waste, and agricultural bi-products).


June 2019

Project Type



"Every year, 60 percent of all fresh produce 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. That surplus could be turned into value-added food products or fertile compost for use in household or commercial ventures. Waste Not: Borderlands Innovations in Food Waste Management 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.

Waste Not is a collaboration between VozFrontera (Southwest Folklife Alliance, an affiliate of the University of Arizona, Startup Unidos (SU) and the UA Office of Sustainability.

The project 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. It has three components:

1) Gathering of Stories – The opportunity to change the narrative Training young people in ethnography skills to document food waste management practices that come from food traditions at home or in the industry and to hear the problems that community members are facing in regards to waste management.

2) Startup – Develop ideas into real-life business opportunities Assisting them in the creation of business innovation applications that address the problems heard in the gathering of stories in regards to waste management;

3) Educational Pop-ups – Knowledge sharing Building greater community awareness and engagement with different organizations, businesses, and people in the sustainability realm in the borderlands through field trips and workshops."

"I now see Nogales as a connect place where things can grow" Samantha Garcia

1 year later

The project creates opportunities for youth to see themselves as problem solvers in their own community.

Thirteen Nogales Youth Aim To Eliminate Waste

NOGECO, founded by WASTE NOT youth earn $5K for Sustainable Startup Idea

As COVD-19 takes it's affects, these young entrepreneurs keep thriving

100% of students are writing their national exams.

Students are provided with a safe and secure home.

Children are exposed to a new community of support.