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Kat McCarthy

Green Mountain College, MS
Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Scholar 2015

A Strategy for Organics Diversion

Project Description (while EREF Scholar):
Organics diversion is considered by many to be the next frontier of recycling. The US EPA estimates that organic materials, including paper, yard trimmings and food scraps, make up the largest component of municipal solid waste. For commercial businesses in the hospitality sector, it costs money to both acquire and discard these materials. In addition to the financial implications of this problem, there are also environmental and social impacts associated with wasted food, such as resource use, pollution, and food insecurity. This represents an opportunity to develop a comprehensive suite of services for organics diversion that promotes waste prevention, donation, and composting. In communities across the country resources exist to redirect and compost uneaten food.  However, there is a lack of technical expertise and a business model to enact such a program.

Through this project, research will be conducted to evaluate the feasibility of developing a business that offers commercial generators a comprehensive suite of services for organics management. Through research and a review of case studies, Kat will seek to understand best practices and parameters for such an entity. Objectives for the project include: (1) investigate business strategies and economic models that may be applied to the development of organics diversion programs; (2) research elements of organics diversion systems that feature prevention, donation, or composting; and (3) identify opportunities to draw on existing resources within the local community to implement cost-effective operational strategies. By researching the basic parameters of effective entities through the lens of the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit) it is hoped that a framework can be created to evaluate local market viability for the development of such an organization. While this project will focus on a location in upstate New York, it is anticipated that frameworks and lessons learned will be transferrable to other communities across the country. By undertaking this research through the lens of business, reliance on under-funded local municipal programs will be reduced, helping expand organics diversion efforts more rapidly.

Kat McCarthy holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College. During her time as an undergraduate, she developed a passion for materials management through her work as the student recycling coordinator. Since 2006 she has been employed by the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division where she is currently the Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist. Through this position, Kat coordinates 4R efforts (reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuy), including the ReBusiness Partnership, green purchasing initiatives, food scrap recycling and curbside recycling programs. Her most recent work has focused on a curbside food scraps recycling pilot and residential drop spot program.

Kat has been trained as a Master Composter and has a strong interest in organics diversion. In 2006, she helped found Ithaca CRT, which supports local event coordinators in organizing and staffing educational Compost, Recycling, and Trash stations for attendees.  Since 2010, she has served on the board of NYSAR3, the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling. During her years of service as a regional representative with the organization she has acted as board secretary and currently chairs the organization’s Organics Council. Kat is also a co-owner of EcoJarz, a company that specializes in drink tops and accessories to support glass jar reuse. Kat is currently pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at Green Mountain College.