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Scraps: Denver’s Premiere Bike-Powered Compost Service

Scraps is a sustainable company with a mission.

As Denver’s premiere bike-powered compost service, Scraps provides pick-up services for all those who don’t already receive it. The City of Denver currently considers any building with more than eight units a business, and does not offer composting services to those buildings. As a booming city, we see more and more multi-tenant residential buildings arising.

Scraps is here to serve the Mile High City with a low-carbon, bicycle-based, flexible and local solution, tailored to multi-family housing units. Their work and compliance with the City of Denver has helped to service and assist hundreds of residential tenants, as well as dozens of commercial businesses. 

Scraps created the initiatives of using locally manufactured “bicycle vehicles” from Pedicabs, to ride around the city collecting food scraps to refine the standing 50 percent of organic matter that is being tossed into Denver landfills. So far, Scraps has diverted nearly(!) 500,000 pounds of compostable material. That’s half a million pounds of food-waste heading to the landfill. Their initiative, and drive as a collective, is inspirational, innovative, and awakening. 

 

 

Christi Turner, Founder of Scraps, set out to bring the sustainable company into fruition after living in one of these multiple-unit buildings, and after being frustrated at the lack of service. All the Scraps Team, consisting mainly of three full-time employees, were driven to Scraps with the determination and mindset to help humanity become more sustainable and eco-friendly. The team that is currently running it are extremely hands-on individuals that are working tirelessly to divert waste and help manage this growing and immensely personalized business.

Christ said, ““Composting struck me as a simple, accessible and affordable action that just about everyone can do, and that brings a whole slew of positive outcomes. It benefits our environment, our climate, our agricultural systems, our economy, and more. It is a simple behavior[al] change which, at scale, can help turn the tide on our growing waste problem, and help set new standards for waste diversion in our city and in our society – something that an aspiring world-class city like Denver should prioritize.”

Alexa Rosenstien, Director of Operations at Scraps, continued to talk about the essence of their company:  

“Scraps is a compost collection service, pretty simply. We started because the current compost services in and around Denver are lacking. This is why Scraps was born. We are an alternative collection service for residents in the City of Denver and the surrounding areas. On top of that, we also service all types of businesses, including commercial businesses and offices, as well as restaurants and food producers –  like caterers, cafes, coffee shops – all these different types of customers.”

 

The Scraps Team

 

Alexa noted that they began to work with businesses in the first place because they received many requests from interested businesses trying to become more environmentally friendly and educated.  Now sixty to seventy percent of their customer base is residential, and the remainder are businesses. She went into detail explaining that each business receives specialized compost training to educate their organization and employees. Their team often finds businesses individually reaching out to expand their skill set and find new initiatives to help improve their business’s sustainability.

Alexa pointed out that this is where the personalized touch of Scraps comes in handy, because they are able to personally tailor to each  business’s request and give extra assets and training when necessary. 

“We try to establish connections right off the bat. We tell them, hey we’re going to be in here twice a week, and if we notice any contaminants in your compost, we’ll let you know and we’ll work with you to try and eliminate that product from showing up in your compost. I conducted a training last week and told them if they had a question on an item, to shoot me over a picture and a text and I would get back to them on how to properly dispose of it. I think that more than anything, we try to remain a resource to all who want to compost. They start composting with us and a lot of questions about waste come up.”

 

 

She also identified that all communication from their team is extremely personalized. They have no automated email responses, so if you send an email their way, you will get a handwritten answer personally from a member of the team. Alexa even pointed out that she has businesses and employees often texting her to make sure different items are compostable, or if they have a question on their training. Their team is continually reiterating why composting is so important, and driving teams to understand what a necessary task this is.

She continued, “We often get asked ‘Are there any alternatives? Do you have any recommendations? Is this a contaminant?’ So establishing that relationship is really cool to us. So I think across the team, all of us always want to have this personalized touch, because we have this larger mission in mind, and we just want people to be aware that we are not only here to collect your compost, but if you have any other questions, if you are interested in becoming more green or improving your recycling, all sorts of other things, we’re here for that too.”

Scraps also works very closely with the City of Denver Department of Public Works and their waste management services. Scraps is listed as an alternative composting source on the city’s website. Both Scraps and the city have initiated a pilot program throughout the Greater Denver Area.

 

 

This pilot program titled “Food Matters” services up to ten restaurants at a time in the Greater Denver Area to receive free composting services and training from Scraps. The efforts of this pilot are “to advance strategies that have a significant impact in reducing the amount of food being wasted, prioritizing preventing food surpluses, and feeding more people.” The main goals of this program include integrating multiple strategies to prevent wasting food, rescue surplus food for those in need, and recycle food scraps. 

Furthermore, the goal is to increase household food scrap recycling by diverting food waste, increase overall neighborhood participation in the Sustainable Neighborhood Program, increase the number of food service businesses in the Green Business Program, and ultimately decrease the amount of overall food waste. This is an ongoing case study, and is applicable to supporting research around Denver’s current waste.

Scraps has also participated and hosted “Zero Waste Teams” in numerous city-wide events this past summer, such as The Big Wonderful, Truck Stop Rally, The Colorado Classic, Beats on the Creek, and many more. At each of these events, Scraps works with the producers to appropriately divert waste into its necessary category, including compost, recycling, and landfill. There are Scraps volunteer members set up at each waste station to educate attendees about where their waste should go.

 

 

Scraps is looking to continually expand throughout the Greater Denver Area. As they are surpassing their half a million pounds of waste diverted, they hope to soon expand their drop-off program by adding three new drop-off regions to their services in Stanley Marketplace, Englewood, Highlands Ranch, and South Aurora.

Alexa concluded with some insight about Scraps future:  “I feel like we are still at a point where we don’t even know what our potential is. I definitely see us continuing to grow, continuing to service Denver residents, and just growing that customer base as much as we can. Ideally we would like to get more involved on the policy side, because honestly if anything’s going to be a part of meaningful change, it really does need to come from the top and be driven by policy, in my opinion. In terms of like a larger vision, our goal is to continue to make Denver a more sustainable city.”

Christi followed up and concluded, “We are helping show that composting is – and should be – something that anyone can do, successfully, with immediate and cumulative meaningful impact – and something that helps people and businesses to step back and think about their “waste” more holistically, and adjust their habits to be more sustainable and waste-free. It has been a joy to see Scraps grow from spark, to seed, to sprout, to a movement, with strong roots and spreading branches.”

 

If people are interested in composting with Scraps, the website is scrapsmilehigh.com.

People are also welcome to contact them directly at info@scrapsmilehigh.com. Also, here’s a resource that outlines some reasons that composting is so important/necessary/easy: https://scrapsmilehigh.com/why-compost-with-scraps

Organic matter is nutrient rich and composting is “nature’s recycling system.” We should return this organic material to the earth in the form of nutrient rich compost, which helps us grow more nutritious food and keeps all of our scraps out of the landfill, where they produce methane and contribute to our global climate crisis. People should also go to the City’s website to see if they’re eligible for their services. There are tons of resources for composting out there.

 

Full Interview with Christi Turner, Founder of Scraps:

What were your initial motives/idealisms behind Scraps?

“Composting struck me as a simple, accessible and affordable action that just about everyone can do, and that brings a whole slew of positive outcomes. It benefits our environment, our climate, our agricultural systems, our economy, and more. It is a simple behavior[al] change which, at scale, can help turn the tide on our growing waste problem, and help set new standards for waste diversion in our city and in our society – something that an aspiring world-class city like Denver should prioritize. Plus, at the time there was an enormous gap in service, an entire sector of people in Denver who did not have the option to compost – namely, folks living in condos and apartments – and Scraps was designed to solve that problem by offering a compost service specifically tailored for these multi-family buildings, as they are known. This tailored approach hinges on simple things, like appropriately-sized bins, mandatory education & training, open lines of communication and close contact with our membership, and a bike-and-trike-powered pickup service – all designed to overcome the barriers to composting [that] folks were facing. Along the way, we discovered that other sectors – restaurants, other food producers, offices, even residents in single-family homes in many neighborhoods – were also looking for a way to compost that matched their needs and their operations. So we refined our approach to fill these gaps, too.”

From your perspective and words, what is Scraps?  What is the inspiration behind it?

“Scraps is a pedal-powered compost pickup service committed to making composting ubiquitous throughout the Denver area. Frustration was the inspiration! I was living in a condo, and didn’t have the option to compost. The city doesn’t service condos or apartments, because MFUs are considered businesses, and businesses are responsible for contracting their own private waste removal services, and they aren’t required to recycle or compost – just “take out the trash.” Plus, the only private waste haulers offering composting didn’t do it in a manner that allowed individual units/residents to compost, nor [did they] in a way that made sense even for an entire building to sign onto composting. After two years of quietly researching and stewing over this issue, and finding all sorts of ways to be a “rogue composter” (bring it to work, bring it across town to a friend’s house, etc.), I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and try out the idea that had been forming in my mind. Frustration at work, a few major life changes, and of course, the disappointing presidential elections, certainly helped motivate me, too!”

What milestones have you accomplished as a business so far? 

“We’re so grateful for everything that’s been happening. We’re just pounds away from topping 500,000 pounds of compostables collected since we first began pickups. We’ll celebrate our three-year anniversary in February. We have a small staff now (not just contractors), and an office. Our fleet has grown from just one trike, to three trikes and six bike-pulled trailers – and together they serve more than 600 customers in and around Denver. We service offices and office parks, residents and entire residential buildings, restaurants and restaurant groups, and some of Denver’s most influential businesses and people among them. We are helping show that composting is – and should be – something that anyone can do, successfully, with immediate and cumulative meaningful impact – and something that helps people and businesses to step back and think about their “waste” more holistically, and adjust their habits to be more sustainable and waste-free. It has been a joy to see Scraps grow from spark, to seed, to sprout, to a movement, with strong roots and spreading branches.”

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