Strides toward Sustainability: Zero Waste PVD takes initiative to mitigate RI waste issues

At Zero Waste PVD, volunteers collaborate to reduce excess waste by focusing on activism, policy development, and legislative work. They host reusable bag giveaways, and recruit handy volunteers to sew reusable bags, and advocated for PVD’s plastic bag ban. Deborah Schimberg, chairperson of the organization, explained that the group strives to minimize the problems of waste and climate change by tackling issues from both an advocacy perspective and a hands-on perspective. Take, for example, neighborhood clean-ups. “We are trying to straddle both and allow everybody who’s interested to be involved.” Schimberg said. 

Schimberg and her team started ZWP when she was on PVD’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force. It was here that she learned about the city’s environmental issues: “We have a very low recycling rate in PVD,” she told us. Shimberg and her team of volunteers realized that there weren’t enough organizations educating society about issues such as recycling and compost. They set out to change that. 

One of ZWP’s major projects is food waste diversion. Schimberg explained that the RI Central Landfill in Johnston is expected to reach its capacity in 2034, which will create a major problem for diversion as all of the new trash in the state will have nowhere to go. In an attempt to help divert the waste, ZWP created nine community food waste collection sites around the city. According to Schimberg, the more collection sites, the more convenient composting will be; additionally, as compost makes for a great fertilizer, this project can have a substantial positive impact on the environment. 

Schimberg has heard reservations from restaurant owners and residents about bringing composting into their daily lives. “The biggest problem is that … we all want life to be easy and [composting] is more complicated than we’re used to.” She elaborated that people are concerned about keeping food waste in their home due to rodents or odors, or they don’t have the space. What they don’t realize, Shimberg explained, is just how easy and inexpensive it is. 

Despite some resistance, Schimberg has noticed that more people have been getting interested in environmental issues. “The number of people involved continues to grow because there is a hunger to do something.” ZWP is feeding that hunger with practical projects.