The RI Schools Recycling Club was created in 2001, in partnership with the RI Resource Recovery Corporation and the RI Department of Environmental Management to improve recycling in RI Schools. At that time, the number of schools recycling properly was about 15% – among the lowest in New England. When our program ended on 2007, the recycling rate in schools was over 80%!
Results like that prove that change is possible. So, we’re focusing on food waste in RI schools – and how to reduce, recover and recycle it.
The Math is Difficult to Understand
With a grant from the RI Attorney General’s Office in 2019, RISRC conducted 15 food waste audits in three public school districts, including elementary, middle and high schools, in urban, suburban and rural settings. We wanted to know how much – and what kind of – food was being wasted.
The numbers are hard to swallow. We estimate that RI Public Schools waste approximately 13.8 tons of food each week, which translates to 2,500 tons for the school year! 388 tons of that food was unopened or untouched: fruit, granola bars, yogurt, cheese sticks and milk. With our Central Landfill in Johnston almost full and hunger in out state at dire levels, we knew where to focus our efforts.
In partnership with the RI Department of Environmental Management, the Recycling Club has been awarded a Healthy Communities Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Our two-year initiative will select schools who want to step up to the plate, and take the “Get Food Smart, RI” challenge! We’ll guide them as they implement their own programs for reducing, recovering and recycling food waste. We’ll help them assemble “green teams” and then provide coaching and training. Plus, there’ll be financial assistance for schools with the best plans!
Together we will help achieve the nation’s 2015 goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 by measuring the food waste we prevent, recover and divert from the central landfill and reporting that data to the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.
Our goal is to divert more than 20 tons of wasted food from the Central Landfill and to donate 2 tons of perfectly good food to hungry kids and their families. But more than that, we need to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders, providing them with the tools they need to create sustainable solutions.