Checking in on Vermont’s composting law compliance

Vermonters have been required to compost food scraps since July 1st.
Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 8:12 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2020 at 12:02 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s new composting law went into effect earlier this month in an effort to stop food scraps from filling landfills, but the pandemic has made it hard to tell if the new policy is making a difference.

Back in February, there were questions surrounding Vermont’s preparedness to handle an increase in compost when the mandatory law would take effect. But officials have remained optimistic.

“If we build it, they will have to come along,” said Josh Kelly with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

Vermonters have been required to compost food scraps since July 1. Kelly says there’s been an immediate response.

“We have been extremely impressed with Vermonters and their engagement with their new policy,” he said.

Infrastructure upgrades to support the new law have been in the works since 2012. But without a good gauge to determine exactly how much food compost there would be, there were some questions about the state’s ability to handle the excess waste.

Kelly says transfer stations have more than doubled their ability to handle food scraps. He also says there are nine new food scrap haulers and 12 facilities across the state either expanding their composting services or offering new services to customers.

“At our drop-off locations at Green Mountain Compost, there has been a 266% increase in May this year than in May 2019,” said Michele Morris with the Chittenden Solid Waste District. “We’ve been working on expansion of our facility through a grant we got over a year ago from the Agency of Natural Resources.”

While more scraps have been coming from the residential side, the pandemic created an almost 60% drop in food scraps from restaurants and other businesses in April because of the shutdown. That means it’s still hard to tell exactly how much waste they’ll really get regularly. But even as businesses reopen, Morris says they’ll be ready.

“Really it’s about infrastructure. We need to make sure it’s something we can manage, it’s something people can participate in easily for them,” she said.

Kelly says without the tools to enforce the law, it’s really about education and getting people to change their habits. He says residual effects of the law are doing more than helping those with a good garden.

“They have been seeing much more food rescue as a result,” said Kelly. “The fact is, perfectly good food is thrown away every day and much less so in Vermont as a result of this initiative.”

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