A Look Into CERO Cooperative & the Waste Stream

CERO Cooperative, Inc. was founded as a means to create environmentally friendly jobs for Boston’s underemployed and unemployed populations. Activists, joined by the Boston Workers Alliance and the MassCOSH Immigrant Worker Center, came together in recognition of a market opportunity in an emerging green economy. After learning about the planned state organic waste ban, they began planning the creation of a composting services business in 2013 and CERO began operations in October of 2014. Compost made by CERO is sold to community farms and businesses including Haley House, A Yard and a Half Landscaping Cooperative and Green City Growers. CERO is a worker owned cooperative, meaning all seven of their employees have a significant interest in the success of the business. All of the workers own and mange the company together, and take pride in building a bilingual and multicultural working community.

Coinciding with CERO’s opening was a food waste ban put into effect by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. According to CERO’s website, “the ban prohibits over 1,700 businesses in the state from disposing organic material with their trash.” The ban secured for CERO a body of potential customers who would now require a composting service in order to comply with the law.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 65% of what ends up in landfills is organic material that could be composted. CERO’s services keep compostable waste out of landfills and go above and beyond by guaranteeing that clients will not have to battle the pests or odors that often accompany compost. On the contrary, CERO cleans compost bins after every pick up. The best part is that the cost of CERO’s services to their clients is usually offset by the money they save on reduced trash pickups. Trash pick up fees are high, especially in Boston, and CERO offers a viable alternative. On the home page of their website CERO keeps a count of all the money they have saved their customers in trash hauling expenses, as this is written, the number stands at $124,490. CERO also keeps a running total of the weight of waste their composting has kept out of landfills, that number is currently 3,590,042 pounds.

This organization’s ultimate goal is to improve the communities they serve. They provide jobs to Boston’s citizens, collect compost from Boston’s businesses, and collected food waste is returned to the soil in Boston’s farms. By keeping their operations local, CERO is able to maximize the benefits their business brings to Boston. According to Lor Holmes, leader of CERO’s venture development and capitalization strategies, CERO has reinforced her belief in the power of the people and grassroots ideas. Holmes believes that more businesses like CERO can be developed elsewhere simply by supporting creative people who want to improve their own community. As for CERO, they plan to continue eliminating Boston’s waste in a way that benefits Boston’s citizens.

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Elizabeth Walsh

Elizabeth Walsh was a research intern for the Waste to Wealth Initiative for the summer 2017.