Singleton Bill to Establish Grant Program Supporting School Upcycling Advances

TRENTON – In an effort to reduce waste produced in schools, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Senator Kristin Corrado that would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish the “School Plastics Upcycling Grant Program”. Upcycling involves the transformation and reconstitution of used, useless, or unwanted plastic products and materials into new and repurposed materials and products.

The purpose of the new program would be to annually provide grant funding to eligible applicant schools in order to enable each school to purchase and acquire a fair, equitable, and proportional share of school-appropriate furnishings. These furnishings would be produced by authorized upcyclers through the upcycling of school-collected plastics.

“Reducing the waste produced in our schools is in and of itself a worthwhile goal, but this program would also set an example of environmental consciousness and responsibility for children as they go through school,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Moreover, by providing grant funding for school upcycling we would incentivize more widespread school recycling of otherwise wasted plastics, while enabling schools to acquire new chairs, tables, desks, and other important classroom equipment.”

The bill, S-1441, would establish the “School Plastics Upcycling Grant Program” as a pilot to be operated for a period of three years, or until the funds allocated to the program have been fully expended or are no longer sufficient to provide proportional grant awards to all eligible applicant schools.

At the conclusion of the pilot period, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection would be required to submit a report evaluating the success, effectiveness, and need for continued implementation of the program. If recommended to continue, the Commissioner would be authorized to continue implementation of the program, subject to the presence of necessary funds appropriated or made available to the DEP for the program’s purposes.

In April 2023, Senator Singleton toured Delran Intermediate School with the Green Team to learn more about their plastic recycling efforts. During the discussion after the tour, a student proposed the idea of a state program that would utilize unwanted plastics collected by the school to obtain upcycled furniture/ equipment needed by the school. The School Plastics Upcycling Grant Program is a direct result of that student-led suggestion.

The bill was advanced in a 5-0 vote.