PROVIDENCE - Sometimes, it takes the young to teach the old new tricks.
When Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) and several of his legislative colleagues met a few weeks ago to talk with students from the Westerly Middle School about a project they had undertaken - convincing municipal officials to install a collection drum at the town transfer station to collect used, liquid cooking oil - they saw an idea that could be expanded statewide.
"It is a simple yet incredibly smart idea and one that will pay dividends in a number of ways - financial as well as environmental. Today's youngsters are really very tuned into conservation and recycling and we need to take a lesson from them," said Kennedy.
He met with the students along with Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) and Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown), the Senate Minority Leader.
The students developed their idea after reading a news story about the Westerly WARM shelter's "A Dollar Makes a Difference" drive to raise heating assistance funds. After convincing the town to add the collection drums for used cooking oil, they also, in partnership with two local companies, set up a process to convert the used oil into the clean burning alternative fuel, biodiesel.
With 90 restaurants participating in the program, the students were able to turn the proceeds they received from the waste oil into donations to local charities. Through the end of 2010, they had donated 6,600 gallons of BioHeat, the equivalent of $16,500, to a number of local agencies.
For more information, pick up this week's The Chariho Times.