As Vermont prepares to begin mandatory food scrap recycling on July 1, state and local officials are praising residents here for already exceeding the state’s recycling goal of 50 percent for 2020. “We are pleased to see towns successfully reducing waste and increasing recycling and composting like Vernon residents have. These are all steps that move Vermont forward in meeting its sustainable solid waste management goals,” Cathy Jamieson, Solid Waste Program manager at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement.
Sandra Rulewich, chair of Vernon’s Solid Waste Committee, added, “This was made possible by the combined efforts of the town’s interested residents, the Solid Waste Committee, and supported and assisted by the Windham Solid Waste Management District. Bob Spencer, executive director, has been, and remains a steady resource through it all.”
The goal of 50 percent compliance was set forth in 2014 and 2019 in the Vermont Materials Management Plan. Of the almost 500 tons per year of waste generated by Vernon and collected by Triple T Trucking each year, about half – 250 tons – are recyclable materials and compostable food scraps. Statewide, recycling rates hovered around 30 percent for many years, until food scrap composting in Vernon and some other parts of Vermont boosted rates to more than 50 percent. Vernon started collecting food scraps at the elementary school more than 10 years ago, then expanded the program town-wide by placing bins at the town garage where residents can drop off a range of compostable organic materials (not waste), including food scraps, pizza boxes, soiled paper, and kitty litter, as well as many other items that won’t break down in a backyard compost pile. Composting those food scraps that Triple T Trucking hauls to Martin’s Farm in Greenfield, Mass. costs less than dumping them in a landfill, saving the town money. In contrast, recycling costs have been increasing, and now exceed landfill disposal fees for trash.
Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, Act 148, mandates recycling, as well as variable rate trash disposal, i.e. Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT), which Vernon implemented a year before the 2015 mandate. In that time, Vernon has had a number of volunteer recycling and solid waste committees which worked with Triple T to implement PAYT and food scrap composting. Act 148 now also mandates diversion of food scraps from landfill disposal, which Vernon had already begun on a voluntary basis many years prior to the law, and which will now apply to all residents starting July 1. So for over 10 years, Vernon has had dumpsters for food scraps and soiled paper/cardboard at the town highway garage, and again has been ahead of the state’s recycling curve.