Report finds Vermont struggling to reduce waste as landfill fills up

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 5:55 PM EST
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ROCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s only landfill is filling up. The Coventry landfill only has about 20 years of capacity left. So the state has a goal of cutting 50% of its waste out of the waste stream. But progress on that goal is slow moving according to a new state report.

On a small, private plot in Rochester where food scraps rot, one man’s business grows.

“It’s grown exponentially. I’ve more than doubled from the year before,” said Zach Cavacas, the owner of Music Mountain Compost.

Since I last checked with Music Mountain Compost back in the summer of 2021, Cavacas has added commercial clients, started making his own soil and now boasts more than 500 customers.

“The fact that I can make money on it, as well as divert waste from the landfill, it’s a win-win for me, for the state, for the customer,” Cavacas said.

He estimates he has kept about 200 tons of food waste out of the waste stream, which he considers a big success.

A new state report, though, says more needs to be done.

“The report acknowledges that we are not there, that we are at about 36%,” said Josh Kelly of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

That means that we currently are keeping about 36% of the total waste we produce out of the landfill, whether that be through reuse, recycling, composting or a general reduction in waste production. Our recycling rate is good, resting at about 72%.

“That is called a recovery rate, and that is a great recycling rate for the state of Vermont,” Kelly said.

As for food waste, Kelly says we’ll know more later this year. But the report highlights his other concerns about the waste stream.

“People have heard of PFAS, that is right up top in the report,” he said.

Kelly says PFAS is front and center because of its prevalence in the waste stream, but the report also details high costs to consumers around waste and improper battery disposal.

“Keep them out so they are not causing fires in the trash or in our recycling systems,” Kelly said.

He says the best way to reduce waste is to purchase fewer disposable products. He also puts waste education on the docket to help meet the state’s goals.

But back in Rochester, Cavacas isn’t letting lagging progress statewide slow him down.

“Really nothing gets me down about this, I’m really blessed, really fortunate to have this business,” Cavacas said.

Cavacas says he isn’t discouraged by the numbers from the state, it reassures him that what he’s doing is valuable.

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