Food scrap haulers see uptick in business after statewide compost law

It’s the law to compost food scraps in Vermont, and now it’s giving smaller business owners a chance to shine.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:39 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 8:47 AM EDT
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DUXBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s the law to compost food scraps in Vermont, and now it’s giving smaller business owners a chance to shine.

Small food scrap haulers are popping up across Vermont, offering a bucket for people to fill with food scraps and curbside pickup to take them away.

Ellen Ross, the co-creator of Roots Compost, says as a Vermont native she assumed she was surrounded by people composting, but when the law requiring residents to compost went into effect, she realized there was a demand to haul.

“We can do that, we have a pickup truck, we can help out our neighbors. And we quickly went from just a few neighbors to almost 200 people,” said Ross.

With the demand high, homegrown companies like Roots have been able to thrive.

According to the Chittenden Solid Waste District and Green Mountain Compost, both small haulers and residential food waste drop-off have seen incredible growth in recent months and account for a significant portion of total food waste tons at their facilities.

“Every day we have people contacting us. A lot of the bigger companies aren’t offering residential composting services,” said Ross.

Roots is a small company in Duxbury. It consists of just Ellen, Will McDonald and their dog Wally. And according to McDonald, a wide range of people are getting involved.

“A lot of the people we pick up from are new to it and genuinely just got into it because they want to adhere to the law. And then there are other people who have been lifelong composters,” said McDonald.

Both Ross and McDonald have other jobs during the week, so Roots is a weekend passion project crossed with a golden opportunity. It’s a weekend gig that also takes a lot of their time. Since July 17, they have hauled almost 2.5 tons of food scraps.

“We’ve had days where I have started at 5 a.m. and haven’t gotten back into the driveway at 9 p.m.,” said McDonald.

But they both say it’s fun, and with co-pilot Wally, they say it doesn’t feel like work yet. For now, they can focus on making sure they are playing a role in helping neighbors.

“We have always said that we want to be taking care of our neighbors. We are here for them,” said Ross.

But for Roots, it isn’t just about moving food, it’s also about educating.

It’s the law to compost food scraps in Vermont, and now it’s giving smaller business owners a chance to shine.

“The level of education about compost has been really diverse and generally people have been really interested in learning more about it, also no matter where on that spectrum they were,” said William McDonald.

“We love being someone that you can call and just be like, ’Hey, can I put my lobster bits into the compost?’ We want to be able to answer that question,” said Ellen Ross.

Ross and McDonald also say they are enjoying teaching other people about composting and say they are also learning themselves.

Roots is still looking at expansion, and another small food scrap hauler, Some Dudes Compost Company, is experiencing similar popularity. Some Dudes Compost is so busy, right on their website it says they can’t take any more clients.


Flat fees at all Chittenden Solid Waste drop-off centers are being dropped. Instead, there will be a modified “per bag” fee, which is in line with the pre-COVID-19 structure.

Here are the new prices for different sizes:

  • Small (up to 13 gal): $2.00
  • Medium (14 to 35 gal): $6.00
  • Large (36 to 45 gal): $8.00
  • Cubic Yard: $42.00

Separate fees will apply to materials or items that are not commonly generated household trash.

CSWD Drop-Off Centers are now open in Essex, Hinesburg, Milton, South Burlington, and Williston. The center in Burlington is open for food scrap drop-off only. The Richmond location will be reopening sometime this month.

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