Improving Ocean Health Starts On Land

Clean Ocean Access launches Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas Rhode Island

Pictured above, Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Access at the launch event held at The Mooring Restaurant. Photo credit: Cory Silken

On Friday, December 7th U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed and DEM Director, Janet Coit, gave remarks at the launch event of an innovative multi-year project spearheaded by Clean Ocean Access, a nonprofit organization based on Aquidneck Island. Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas Rhode Island is a two-year long initiative funded by 11th Hour Racing that aims to inspire long-lasting environmentally responsible behavior by tackling ocean pollution at its root: on land.

“The marine debris epidemic is a solvable problem, and from our experience, people absolutely want to see ocean pollution become a problem of the past,” says Dave McLaughlin, executive director of Clean Ocean Access. “Restoring and improving ocean health starts with the decisions we make on land.”

Clean Ocean Access will lead Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI, bringing together composting efforts across the state in partnership with existing food-waste-diversion groups: The Compost Plant, Rhodeside Revival and the Aquidneck Community Table. The three partners serve as the boots-on-the-ground team that will manage all commercial and residential composting collection and processing with an initial focus on Aquidneck Island.

Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI includes three composting programs:

1) A pilot business composting program for 10 businesses in downtown Newport;
2) A residential program for households on Aquidneck Island; and
3) An educational pilot program, “Yes, In My Back Yard (YIMBY),” for backyard composting.

Grant funding from 11th Hour Racing allows Clean Ocean Access to subsidize the composting programs and offer discounted rates to the first round of customers who sign up through Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI. The initiative brings together diverse stakeholders that include non-profit organizations, academia, government, local businesses, and industry with the hope of expanding an integrated materials management initiative throughout the State of Rhode Island.

“What we do on land and in our everyday lives affects ocean health,” said RI DEM Director, Janet Coit, citing that 100,000 tons of food waste enters the Central landfill each year. “With Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI we have an example of people seizing their own destinies, being responsible and doing it at a local level.”

Plastic makes up 10-15% of the material entering Rhode Island’s landfill. Organic waste and debris makes up another 30-35%, and the Johnston landfill is expected to reach capacity by 2034, according to a recent report published by RI Resource Recovery Corporation. With the potential to divert nearly 50% of Action today so future generations can enjoy ocean activities the materials entering the landfill, integrated recycling and composting efforts could double the landfill’s lifetime through 2049 and mitigate costly expenses associated with out-of-state tipping fees.

“There’s a real spirit of bipartisanship around oceans,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, speaking of the work being done at the national level to tackle plastic pollution and marine debris. He emphasized the critical role local projects like Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI play to spark national urgency around the problem of ocean pollution.

“Marine debris can harm marine life impact, boating safety, hinder tourism and other coastal industries, as well as threaten human health,” emphasized U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who also spoke of the success of the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program started in Rhode Island in 2012. “I am very proud to see Rhode Island leading the way on this issue.”

By encouraging people to think critically about their waste footprints, Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI aims to spark long-lasting behavior change that empowers people to reevaluate the need for low-and-no value materials entering the landfill, or worse, polluting our ocean.

“Every day organic waste is disposed of in the landfill where it generates greenhouse gases that warm our planet and are detrimental to ocean health,” said Michelle Carnevale, Program Manager at 11th Hour Racing. Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI is a wonderful initiative that allows the community to come together and collaborate on an effective, and simple, solution. 11th Hour Racing is proud to support this project that promotes systemic change through individual and collective action.”

For more information about Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI, and to learn how you can join the first wave of participants turning the tide on ocean pollution visit: http://www.cleanoceanaccess.org/hshsri/.

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