Waste to Wealth, 2016 in Review

Now that 2016 is firmly in the rearview mirror, we are looking back at some of the great work that we did in our Waste to Wealth initiative during the year. We’ve broken down some of our top content into the two active categories of our initiative: Composting Makes SenseRecycling, Economic Development, and Zero Waste. We’ve also included some of our top media hits from the year as well as a full index of our stories available here or below.

Top Posts from Composting for Community Project:

Infographic: Compost Impacts More Than You Think

by Brenda PlattMay 6, 2016

From healthy soils, to good local jobs, we bet you didn’t know that compost can have such an impact on your daily life! So think twice before you throw away your compostable food scraps… because one person’s trash is another’s black gold. Please help us spread the word!



We want you to be able to share these infographics under creative commons license, free of cost. Read more…

ILSR’s NSR Program Replicated in Atlanta, GA

by Linda BilsensJuly 8, 2016

ILSR is proud to introduce the Atlanta Community Compost Advocates! Corinne Coe of Terra Nova Compost Cooperative partnered with ILSR and ECO City Farms to adapt their Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders (NSR) Composter Training Program for the City of Atlanta. ILSR and Terra Nova Compost collaborated closely to fundraise for, design and implement the inaugural class of the Community Compost Advocate Training Program (CCATP), which was offered with with generous financial support of the Food Well Alliance. On the weekends of June 11th-12th, 18th-19th, and 25th-26th, a culturally diverse group of 16 participants came together to learn about the art and science of composting and community. Read more…

Montgomery Co., MD Bill Requires Distributed Composting

by Brenda PlattJuly 14, 2016

On June 28, 2016, Montgomery County Council (Maryland) Vice President, Roger Berliner, introduced legislation to require the development of a comprehensive composting and food recovery strategic plan. The bill might be the first in the country to stipulate a diverse and distributed plan that considers food rescue, backyard composting, community scale composting, on-site institutional and commercial composting, on-farm composting, local use of compost to support soil health and the County’s stormwater management program, and more. Read more…

Composting Will Help Flint Recover From Its Water Crisis

by Linda BilsensAugust 9, 2016

It would be an understatement to say that Flint has been in the news a lot lately—one of the most recent stories has to do with a lapsed trash collection contract that left residents without service. The city still has a long road ahead before it can fully heal from the water contamination crisis that started in 2014: more than 8,000 children are thought to have been effected; 6 city officials have just been charged in connection; and Flint’s Mayor, Karen Weaver, used the podium at the recent Democratic National Convention to remind the nation that “The water is still not safe to drink or cook with from the tap”. Like many older industrial cities, Flint also has lead and other heavy metals in its soils, exacerbating the effects of the water crisis. As is often the case, low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to the highest concentrations. Read more…

EPA’s New Rules for Landfills Won’t Cut Greenhouse Gas Pollution

by Rebecca ToewsSeptember 12, 2016

The Federal Register recently published new landfill rules which fail to meet any of the goals that the White House and EPA have set forth to reduce landfill gas emissions.

In July, US EPA’s “Fuels and Incineration Group” (FIG) pushed through its final revisions to new rules regarding landfills in the United States. The rules state that landfill owners may receive greenhouse gas credits that profit a landfill operation’s bottom line.

Garbage is Not Renewable.” states Neil Seldman of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “While we applaud the EPA for its public statement in support of food loss reduction,” he says, “this new landfill policy will do nothing to help move toward the food recovery goal. It will even hurt these efforts.” Read more…

Vote for the White House Kitchen Garden

by Linda BilsensOctober 31, 2016

On a chilly day in late-February, my husband and I received an unexpected visitor to our backyard: First Lady Michelle Obama. We are deeply honored that the First Lady chose our family’s garden (along with a couple of local schools) to act as the launchpad of her Let’s Move! Initiative. The initiative has succeeded in bringing the connection between gardening, homegrown food, and an active, healthy lifestyle into the national spotlight, and it is thought to represent the largest single impact the Obama Administration has had on food issues. Read more…

Video: Prospect Heights Community Farm Community Composting Feature

by Linda BilsensNovember 18, 2016

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we document and promote innovative uses of local power that can be used around the country. Community composting is a way that neighborhoods can take control of what could be waste, such as food scraps, and turn it into wealth, such as healthy soil. Prospect Heights Community Farm in Brooklyn shows us how they are doing just that in our latest video. Read more…

Video: Compost Happens, But Training Matters

by Linda BilsensNovember 23, 2016

Composting is an age-old practice that still benefits our soils as much today as it did in ancient times. But, what many people may not know is that proper training matters in order to create this “black gold” both safely and effectively. At ILSR’s Composting for Community Project, we’re cultivating a greater awareness of the myriad benefits compost can provide to our soils and ourselves, the critical role community plays in the composting process, and what it takes to create high-quality compost. Read more…

The Community Compost Cooperative at the Howard University Community Garden

by Valerie OnifadeDecember 8, 2016

The composting site at the Howard University Community Garden in NW Washington, DC (Shaw/Howard area) showcases what a collaboration between a local government department, non-profit organizations, small businesses, institutions of higher education, and members of the community can accomplish for composting efforts. This project demonstrates the benefits that come from community composting and has the potential to become an example of the onsite institutional systems that ILSR promotes. Read more…

Composting Cultivates Economic Development – Episode 7 of the Building Local Power Podcast

by Nick Stumo-LangerDecember 15, 2016

In this episode, Chris Mitchell, the director of our Community Broadband Networks initiative, interviews Linda Bilsens, Project Manager of ILSR’s Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Program. Bilsens explains how producing compost from food scraps builds local economic development, fights climate change, and cultivates community.

Chris and Linda discuss how both individuals and communities can partake in rebuilding their local soils by composting organic materials. Check out the further information on our composting work here: Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders training program. Contact Linda Bilsens if you’re interested in replicating this program. Read more…

Top Posts from Recycling, Economic Development, and Zero Waste Project:

Zero Waste: A Short History and Program Description

by Neil SeldmanJanuary 20, 2016

In the last 20 years, No Waste, a simple term expressing the aspirations of recycling activists, became Zero Waste and a social movement bearing that name quickly took root in the USA, Europe, Asia and the entire globe.

In 1995, Dr. Daniel Knapp of Urban Ore, Berkeley, CA traveled to and toured Australia for the first of a series of talks with governments, businesses and citizens in major cities on how to maximize materials recovery and minimize wasting by reusing, recycling, and composting everything currently being wasted. Read more…

Is Recycling Stagnating? The Case of Los Angeles

by Neil SeldmanMarch 8, 2016

In the past several months, journalists in major publications such as Forbes, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Mother Jones have concluded that recycling rates have stagnated. They tend to blame the recent downturn in materials prices. They’re half right. Recycling levels have stagnated in many cities and towns, largely in the South and Midwest, and the national average of 35 percent has not moved much in more than a decade. Read more…

Activists Win The Day: Huge Grassroots Victory Over Curtis Bay Incinerator

by Neil Seldman | March 18, 2016

The best way to defeat proposed incinerators has proven itself once again: community organizing. The Maryland State Department of the Environment pulled the permit on the proposed 4,000 ton per day incinerator to be built in the long suffering industrial communities of Curtis Bay-Brooklyn on the Fairfield Peninsula in south Baltimore. Curtis Bay and Brooklyn are adjacent to communities in Anne Arundel County, MD which are also celebrating this grass roots victory. Read more…

The Victory Over Proposed Incinerator in Logansport, Indiana

by Neil SeldmanApril 21, 2016

For the past 40 years organized citizens and small businesses have successfully defeated proposed incinerators in over 400 cities and counties in the US. Each confrontation was unique even as they shared common elements: Opponents of garbage incineration used facts against the administration’s public relations, focused at the local level where elected officials are most vulnerable to public outcries, stayed polite and professional in the face of ad hominem attacks, and relied on community meetings and social media to get around black outs by local media. Read more…

Save the Albatross Coalition Formed

by Neil SeldmanMay 9, 2016

The Save the Albatross Coalition was initiated by recycling activists through the Grass Roots Recycling Network, founded in 1995. ILSR’s Brenda Platt and Neil Seldman were two of the five co-founders of GRRN.  The Coalition aims to address the earth’s global plastic pollution problem through responsible behavior by companies that generate the plastic products that threaten our oceans.  Neil Seldman co-chairs the Save the Albatross Coalition with Captain Charles Moore of Algalita Research and Education, based in Long beach, CA. Read more…

The Future of Garbage in Maryland Is Not What It Used To Be

by Neil SeldmanJune 13, 2016

A few years ago it looked like Maryland would start to resemble states like Connecticut and Massachusetts that invested heavily in garbage incineration. Baltimore has a downtown incinerator, Harford County wanted to expand theirs, Washington County wanted its own facility, Frederick and Carroll Counties were under contract for building a new 1,500 ton per day plant, a private company wanted to build a 4,000 ton per day plant at Curtis Bay in south Baltimore, and Prince George’s County began exploring ‘conversion technologies’ or as Bradley Angel of GreenAction for Environment and Health calls them, ‘incinerators in disguise.’ Read more…

Eureka Recycling: Efficient, Cost Effective, and Socially Beneficial Recycling

by Neil SeldmanSeptember 8, 2016

Grassroots recycling companies were a critical link in the United States as the transition from the drop off recycling centers that sprung up after Earth Day in 1970 and municipal curbside service that emerged in the mid 1970s. Non-profit and for profit enterprises demonstrated the feasibility of curbside collection and by the mid 1980s municipal services were being introduced throughout the U.S. Established hauling companies bought some of the more successful enterprises.[1] Several remain in operation today: Recycle North in Burlington, VT, Center for Eco Technology in Pittsfield, MA, Infinity Recycling in Chestertown, MD, EcoCycle in Boulder, CO, Berkeley Ecology Center, Ann Arbor Ecology Center, Resource Center in Chicago, and Eureka Recycling in St Paul, MN. Read more…

ILSR Co-Founder Speaking at Ralph Nader’s Breaking Through Power Conference

by Nick Stumo-LangerSeptember 14, 2016

On Monday, September 26th, Institute for Local Self-Reliance co-founder Neil Seldman will present at Ralph Nader’s Breaking Through Power Conference in Washington D.C. His presentation: “Community Business is Revolutionary” will be at 11:10AM at Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Tickets for one-day passes are only $10 and can be purchased through TicketMaster. Here is the description of the event from the organizers of the Breaking Through Power Conference. Read more…

Murray J. Fox, The “Johnny Appleseed” of U.S. Recycling

by Neil SeldmanOctober 6, 2016

In my career of five decades of working in the recycling field for ILSR there is only one person I consider a true “Johnny Appleseed of Recycling” in the U.S.  His name is Murray J. Fox and he remains a sage of recycling, whose own history provides insight into today’s policies and issues. He never failed to teach others about the configuration of the equipment, the technologies to be employed and the problems to be solved.  In the 1970s, Fox provided guided tours to beginning community recyclers of his ingeniously designed beneficiation plants with modern equipment and expandable walls along concrete pads.  These were the people  who subsequently became national leaders in the emerging U.S. recycling movement. Read more…

Review of the “Facts” that Guide Waste Management, Inc.’s CEO

by Neil Seldman | October 20, 2016

The CEO of Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) commented to CNBC that, based on the facts, glass and organics should not be collected because they lack economic value for shareholders. In a related panel discussion, the need for top-down legislation to help recycling was deemed unnecessary. Accordingly, WMI is reducing its investments in recycling. “As profits in this area decrease,” one report states, “WMI has reduced its investment in recycling from $300 to $400 million per year to under $20 million per year, (See, Waste Dive for September 6, 7, and 14). Read more…

Top Media Highlights from 2016:

5. 4 Money Stories in the Compost Industry

by Jenna Miller, National Center for Business Journalism | November 25, 2016

The feasting season is also the season for food waste. According to the Worldwatch Institute the amount of discarded food in the U.S. increases by a third between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Composting helps with some of that. Year-round, compostable material makes up between a third and a half of residential waste produced in the U.S, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Read more…

4. The Not-So-Great Side Effect of Your Sheet-Mask Addiction

by Fawnia Soo Hoo, Refinery29November 12, 2016

Don’t let the unseasonal heat wave fool you — winter is, eventually, coming. That means it’s time to stock up on those hydrating and repairing products. One of the most effective ones out there? Sheet masks. But as we drench our faces in donkey milk or snail goop, we can forget one glaring issue: all the leftover waste. After a week of regular treatments, your garbage can can might look like Hannibal Lecter and Jason Voorhees went on a bender — full of crumpled eyeless and mouthless masks along with heaps of plastic packaging, which will all end up in a landfill. Read more…

3. Getting Smart About Waste

by Bob Graves, Governing MagazineApril 26, 2016

With the advent of the Internet of Things, it may seem that technology can make virtually anything “smart.” We hear regularly about intelligent transportation systems, electrical grids and vehicles. But what about waste? Can technology make waste smart? Read more…

2. Seeds of Hope

by Taylor Haynes, Clever Root MagazineNovember 7, 2016

In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama, aided by local school children, planted the first seeds of what would become an impressive garden on the grounds of the White House, overflowing with vegetables, fruit and herbs. Nearby, the White House beehives keep busy pollinating the garden and making honey, which is often used as a gift for foreign dignitaries.

On February 25, 2016, the First Lady visited the Washington D.C. home and garden of The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Compost Project Manager Linda Bilsens and Eriks Brolis. Her visit was a complete surprise — but Brolis and Bilsens were more than happy to give the First Lady a tour. The First Lady even sifted the couples’ compost. In return, she personally invited the couple to visit the White House Kitchen Garden. Read more…

1. Landfills Have a Huge Greenhouse Gas Problem. Here’s What We Can Do About It.

by Erica Gies, EnsiaOctober 25, 2016

We take out our trash and feel lighter and cleaner. But at the landfill, the food and yard waste that trash contains is decomposing and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfill gas also contributes to smog, worsening health problems like asthma. Read more…

Full Index of Waste to Wealth Content, Chronologically:

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Nick Stumo-Langer

Nick Stumo-Langer was Communications Manager at ILSR working for all five initiatives. He ran ILSR's Facebook and Twitter profiles and builds relationships with reporters. He is an alumnus of St. Olaf College and animated by the concerns of monopoly power across our economy.