How to start composting ahead of the Universal Recycling Law

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont's Universal Recycling Law goes into effect this summer and that means more people will be composting food waste from home. And with more people stuck at home during the pandemic, state officials say now is a great time to try it out.

"A lot of people are focused on many other things besides their food waste, but they are also at home, so they're generating more waste probably than they ever have," said Josh Kelly with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

State officials say for those stuck at home, now is a great time to start developing that habit.

"When people are at home getting started, learning how to reduce their waste, to cook meals and use those leftovers, and just be a little bit more conscientious about food waste in general, that's our goal. That's what DEC is looking for people to do and consider doing," said Kelly.

Compost bins can be purchased and picked up from local solid waste districts, including CSWD in Chittenden County. And environmental officials say putting them together is very simple, just a matter of screwing in a few nuts and bolts.

"If you have ever gotten a Christmas present under the Christmas tree and that came with some minor instruction, you can put together a compost bin," said Kelly.

The five-sided bins have the benefit of an open bottom, so moisture can seep into the soil. All compost units share one significant advantage.

"People who are active composters know that when they compost, their trash stops smelling because they've really taken the food waste out of it," said Kelly.

That is, if you follow the recommended recipe of three times more brown materials, like dried leaves, wood chips, or shredded newspaper, in a pinch to every portion of food scraps.

"It encourages bacteria to decompose your food and keep those odors down," said Kelly.

As for keeping out critters, dig up a bit of earth around the bin and lay down some galvanized wire mesh -- available at any hardware store -- then place the unit on top and fill in the gaps in the ground.

Kelly and DEC officials hope disposing of scraps separately will open people's eyes to how much food they waste. He says an average family spends $1,500 a year on food they never eat.

While the state won't go rummaging through your household trash on July 1 to check on your consumption, officials say they want Vermonters to start thinking about the good composting will do for them and the environment. "Honestly we're really just focusing on getting people education at this point given all that we have going on," said Kelly.

Compost bins are available at most solid waste districts across the state, but you will need to be patient because they are taking a little bit longer due to curbside pickup and limited staffing. CSWD is only scheduling 16 pickups a day on Mondays and Fridays, so make sure you call first for hours and availability.

Click here for more information on food scrap requirements under the Vermont Universal Recycling Law.