Food waste in Vermont will be banned from disposal starting July 1, 2020, the final step in an eight-year plan toward sending less waste into landfills. “Everyone, including businesses, homeowners and renters will be asked to keep food scraps out of their trash as part of the Universal Recycling Law,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore in a press release. “This is an important step in moving us closer to zero-waste state, but we’ve got some work to do.”
Act 148, the Universal Recycling Law was passed in 2012, but the law was implemented with gradual banning of recyclables from the trash stream in 2015 and finally food scraps in 2020, but it’s taken time and initiatives to draw Vermonters away from their traditional method of black plastic trash bags and an expanding landfill.
Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Systems of Rutland said one of the major challenges facing the initiative was developing the infrastructure needed for collection companies to haul out food waste from small, rural communities. “Casella has vastly different densities and scale,” Fusco said. “In a lot of ways, we like to say compost is where recycling was 40 years ago. To make it economically sustainable will take some time.”
More technology, resources and sites would aid in the transition, which would prove challenging for homeowners, Fusco said, and more discussion and education on the subject before full implementation can be expected. Fusco said studies have shown organic waste is about 40% of the waste trade, but options are still needed to convince people to start composting and teaching them how.
For example, Rutland County Solid Waste District Manager Jim O’Gorman said backyard composters don’t generate enough heat to break down meat, bones, fish and compostable utensils, but larger-scale composters do. Unfortunately, in Rutland County that means a drive to Middlebury or Brandon, unless residents want to give it to Casella for transport to a processing plant.
In the meantime, the district is fighting the good fight trying to spread the word about everything from apple cores to orange rinds, egg shells and coffee grounds. “Our outreach coordinator going to all the schools,” O’Gorman said. “You can go out and try to educate them, but whether they think it’s worth it is another matter. … (Some)towns have been recalcitrant because they think it’s unnecessary.”
Ideally, an entrepreneur would start a new composting facility in Rutland, but O’Gorman said he has yet to hear of anyone interested. Subsidizing the composting would make things easier, as would an improvement in the recycling markets. Currently — mainly because of changes in how much recyclable material China will accept — it’s costing more to recycle than to throw something into a landfill. That’s pushing people away from renewable and organic initiatives rather than toward it.