Faced with the historic challenge of managing Solid waste that are generated in Puerto Rico, the recently approved “Law to promote recycling vegetable and composting in schools” (Law 15-2024) falls short and does not go to the core of the problem, which – of course – sows doubts about the effectiveness of its implementation, agreed experts consulted by The new day.
Specifically, the law – signed by the governor Pedro Pierluisi on January 10 – orders the Education deparment establish guides and protocols to develop plant recycling and composting initiatives in schools that offer the agricultural education program. Also, it contemplates that the agency will coordinate the sales of the products generated.
The law came into force immediately after its approval, and gives Education 120 days to develop the guides that will govern the plant recycling and composting project.
As a first reaction, environmental engineering Ingrid Vila Biaggi He questioned why the statute limits the participating schools, since it establishes that the plant recycling and composting initiative will only be established in schools that already have the agricultural education program.
The law does not detail the number of schools in which the new project would be established. According to Education, however, there are four schools specialized in agriculture, and the agency offers courses in agricultural education at 130 campuses in total.
“The question arises as to why the scope is so limited, when it could be something that is established in all schools in the country”questioned Vila Biaggi, co-founder and president of CHANGEa non-profit organization that promoted the multi-sector plan Circular Generationwhich promotes efficient management of solid waste.
“In almost all schools, vegetative material is generated. There are some that are in urban areas and, perhaps, do not have much of a yard to be able to generate that material, but, in the dining rooms, they are generating organic material on a daily basis, which could be collected and managed,” Vila Biaggi explained.
The environmental lawyer Pedro Saade He pointed out, meanwhile, that the law puts the responsibility on teachers and students to address the problem of organic waste. “If you do not have broader measures, broader plans, then you are putting something on the backs of the units and teachers that It must be something broader and the responsibility of a public policy”, he stressed.
For its part, Juan Rosariodirector of the environmental group Amaneser 2025believed that the function of the law is not to impact the problem of solid waste, but to “generate a type of visibility in those schools and generate some type of educational process in relation to compost.”
“It is such a small-scale project that, really, it is not going to produce any type of significant impact on the issue of solid waste”said Rosario, who recalled that, when organic waste decomposes, it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Since 2003, Puerto Rico has not had a waste characterization study. At that time, organic materials accounted for 34% of the waste that reached the landfills, reported El Nuevo Día.
According to the explanatory memorandum of the law, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA) estimated, in 2022, that, in Puerto Rico, an average of 5.5 pounds of solid waste will be generated per day per person. Among the solid waste that reaches landfills, 22% is vegetative material or garden waste. The new statute does not impose any responsibility on the DRNA.
On the other hand, the representative Jorge Rivera Segarraone of the authors of the law, maintained that the intention is to educate about the benefit of plant recycling and composting, in addition to illustrating “how we can add value to what, for us, may be garbage at some point.”
“In Puerto Rico, there is no recycling culture,” said Rivera Segarra. “We saw the opportunity, through the Department of Education, with the agriculture programs, to begin educating young people about the importance of compost”he added.
Current courses in agricultural education, according to the agency, are aimed at teaching food production, natural resource conservation and food security.
It is a project on such a small scale that it is not really going to produce any type of significant impact. ”
Noemí Ramírez Ramírezoccupational facilitator of Education, expressed – in written statements – that “teachers include composting topics in their courses, in the topics of soil nutrition, organic fertilizers, planting media, so It’s nothing new.”.
The Department of Education had recommended that the legislative Assembly would not approve the bill, because “the agency already meets the purposes” that are pursued, according to the positive report of the Senate Commission on Education, Tourism and Culture, issued in October. The agency also noted that the measure, approved with amendments, “be careful with the space and flexibility that schools must have to plan and schedule their respective markets”.
Rivera Segarra, president of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committeestated, however, that, in practice, few schools have a vegetable recycling and composting program.
“The difference is quite clear because the curricula that exist now and the programs that are given in agriculture are more focused on planting, on teaching the student how to manage the land and not on recycling and composting,” said the legislator.
The law does not include a budget to operate the plant recycling and composting program. In this regard, the representative Lisie Burgos Muñizalso the author of the measure, said that it is not necessary to allocate public funds to execute the initiative.
“The school cafeteria staff, the maintenance staff, collect this material. That would be part of their duties, and the students, along with the teachers of the agriculture classes, do the work.”he explained.
Both Rivera Segarra and Burgos Muñiz described the law as a “pilot”, with the possibility of extending the initiative to other schools in the country.
“Obviously, whenever we are going to implement something, we try to do a pilot plan to see how it works. This is a responsibility, and we have to, first, begin to educate these school directors (about) the importance of doing so,” said the legislator.
“If we can prove that we can do compost “With waste, it should definitely be added to all public schools in the country, at all levels”he pointed out.