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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Food Scraps Diversion: Vermont Act 148

Transfer stations and compost facilities across the state now offer food scrap drop-off. Image: CSWD

Michele Morris

Food is many things: Fuel for working bodies, a livelihood for farmers of all sizes and types, an expression of love and nurturing in many families. One thing food should never be is wasted.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources estimates that Vermont’s businesses, institutions and households sent more than 80,000 tons of food and food scraps to the state’s only landfill in 2018.1

In fact, wasted food is consistently about 25 to 30%, by weight, of all the stuff we landfill. Studies estimate that wasted food costs U.S. consumers from $350 per person to around $1,500 a year for a family of four. And that’s just the cost of the food you bought but didn’t eat! It doesn’t even cover the amount you pay to “trash” it.

Landfilled food doesn’t “disappear,” and it doesn’t turn into anything good. It degrades very, very slowly in the dark, airless landfill environment, releasing methane, a powerful contributor to global warming. The Agency of Natural Resources estimates if we took all that food out of the landfill, it would be like taking 7,000 cars off the road every year in terms of climate benefit.

In 2012, Vermont’s Legislature decided this must change and included phased-in requirements in Act 148, known as the Universal Recycling Law, for keeping food scraps out of the landfill.

Beginning July 1, 2020, that requirement will apply to everyone in Vermont—businesses, institutions, and residents. You’ll have choices for what to do instead of trashing this valuable resource:

  1. Reduce your food waste! Buy only what you need, store it properly, and eat what you buy.
  2. Manage food scraps and spoiled leftovers at home. Backyard composting is the cheapest but not the only option. Other possibilities include countertop desiccators, backyard digesters, or feeding livestock. (Contact your local solid waste management authority to learn more about all these options including costs, effort involved, and laws regulating feeding animals.)
  3. Take them to a drop-off location such as a transfer station, Drop-Off Center, or compost facility.
  4. Hire a hauling company to pick them up at your curb.

So, start thinking now about what changes you need to make before July 1. And remember, you have options, and we’re all in this together.

  1. Source: VT 2018 Waste Characterization Study.

Michele Morris is the Director of Outreach and Communications for the Chittenden Solid Waste District, a municipality created to implement solid waste management mandates legislated by the State of Vermont. CSWD’s mission is to reduce and manage the solid waste generated within Chittenden County in an environmentally sound, efficient, effective and economical manner. Our vision: Products are designed to be reused or recycled and our community fully participates in minimizing disposal and maximizing reuse and recycling.

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