The Future of Food Scraps

By Elle O’Casey

As we move into a season of wrapping paper, elaborate meals with friends and family, and gifts we’ll either love or loathe, Act 148 is particularly significant. Holidays are often the time of leftovers tossed into the trash, wrapping paper wadded up and hastily thrown out, and gifts taking an unlucky journey straight into our trash can instead of finding a new home at a local thrift store or charity organization.

Act 148 vows to help us humans change our wasteful habits. Over the past year, I’ve often heard passing references to Act 148 but hadn’t yet fully grasped the full impact of the law. Act 148 nicely positions Vermont to become a national leader in waste reduction and recycling. Here is a bit more information about Act 148 for those still unfamiliar with this relatively new law.

What is Act 148?

recyclingIn a sentence, Act 148 means that by 2020, every Vermonter will be required to separate food scraps and recyclables from trash. Act 148 is the Universal Recycling and Composting Law passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2012. This law is designeed is designed to guide Vermonters away from reliance on landfills, heading instead toward a more sustainable future. The goal is to ensure Vermonters keep reusable resources away from landfills.

Just how much trash do Vermonters throw away each day?

The latest data shows Vermonters throw away 3.6 pounds of trash each day. That number has gone up by a half pound in the past twenty years. In 1987, Vermonters threw away 3.1 pounds of trash. A 2009 study found Vermonters trashed 58,000 tons (116000000 pounds) of recycleables per year. This amounts to 317,808 pounds of recycled materials thrown away each day. According to VPR, prior to Act 148, 60,000 tons of food was thrown away annually with thirty to 40 percent of that estimated to be edible.

How many active landfills does the State of Vermont currently have?

There is just one active landfill in the state. It’s located in Coventry, a town about 6 miles south of Newport. This means that everything we throw away heads to the Northeast Kingdom, which for most of us is a long way away from our homes and businesses. Being more intentional about our recycling and composting habits means ensuring we’re sending as little trash as possible on this long journey north.

What will this law mean?

The law will mean a ban on certain materials by 2020. There is a current list of Mandatory Recyclables that will no longer be allowed in landfills. The law is already being phased in across the state. In 2014 and 2015, the composting law went into effect for businesses producing more than 52 tons of food scraps per year. These businesses now send food waste to a composting facility, nearby farm for livestock feed, or to a donation program. Starting in 2015, trash cans in public areas were required to be accompanied by recycling containers.

Starting in 2017, transfer stations, drop off centers, and other facilities will be required to accept food scraps to compost. In 2014 and 2015, these locations were required to start accepting mandatory recyclables and yard debris. Similarly, curbside trash-pick up services will have to accept food scraps by 2017 ensuring there enough time for residents to learn how to properly dispose of food scraps as compost before 2020.

Do Just One Thing: Consider becoming a composter in 2017. Sustainable Woodstock can help you learn the ropes. Visit our website for more information or to contact us for more information.

One Response to “The Future of Food Scraps

  • Mandatory statewide composting in Vermont. I want so bad to love it, but I have so many questions. What happens if someone puts food waste in the trash after 2020? Does the state operate massive composting facilities; does the state pay someone else for this; or do they just dump the food waste into a designated area in the existing landfill? How’s it work?

    Obviously, it would be better if everyone would just “consider becoming a composter” in 2017, as you suggested. It’s definitely an intriguing project – I’d love to hear updates. Thanks!

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