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: