Monday, legislators traded state house attire for hard hats and reflective vests as they toured Chittenden Solid Waste District's Materials Recovery Facility.
The Williston single-stream plant is one of two high-volume operations in the state where machines and workers -- rather than consumers -- sort recyclables.
"There's a lot of material flowing into those facilities including a lot of deposit containers, so we really have to look at that and what's happening to those materials now that we're moving -- I think fairly quickly -- into a zero-sort, single-stream system," said Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington County).
In Chittenden County about 180 tons of recyclable goods arrive here every day after curb-side pickup. Machines sort the different materials first. Human hands follow, sifting further and sorting out errors. Across the state about 52 percent of recyclables end up buried in a landfill. Thanks in part to this facility, Chittenden County's rate is estimated to be 32 percent.
"This place looks like it's reaching capacity," said Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden County).
The state's landfills are also filling quickly. Sen. Lyons says expanding and improving facilities like this one will be critical in keeping recyclables and compost from wasting limited-dump space. "Trash is not going away and we need to make sure that the people of the state are well-served," she said.
"I think the way the solid waste districts are constructed in Vermont is something that's going to have to be addressed soon," Sen. Hartwell said.
Hartwell says his Natural Resources Committee will spend an entire week looking at the state's solid waste practices prior to Town Meeting Day. They'll consider changes to the bottle deposit law, trash hauling and review Vermont's readiness for mandatory composting as passed in the previous session.
Reporter Kyle Midura: "What's top of the agenda when it comes to trash issues?
Sen. Bob Hartwell: Well, I think all of it. I don't think you can look at this at any one piece of it.
Hartwell says the legislature needs to sort out what to do this year.
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