Vermont households make effort to comply with compost law

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 3:39 PM EDT
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Vermont's new law on composting has been in effect for about two weeks and some apartment complexes are still waiting to get on board. Meanwhile, there are some supplies for backyard composting that you can't find in many stores now.

Small tabletop composters are hot items at Guy's Farm and Yard in Williston. "This is our second shipment in a two-week period," said Genay Cohen, the stores's assistant manager. Cohen says while demand has slowed a bit, they are still selling fast. "Quicker really than we can get them in. I put those on the shelves yesterday afternoon and I've already restocked it today, so they're going."

We heard similar stories when we called other gardening supply stores. That's thanks to Vermont's new composting law, which took effect July 1. Suddenly people in surrounding residential areas -- are scrambling to start saving their scraps. The spot where a midsize bin would be on their shelves is empty. And don't even try to come in to buy a backyard compost tumbler. "I can't keep them in stock. And now our supplier is completely out as well," Cohen said.

But for many people, backyard composting just really isn't an option. This is especially true in places like townhouse complexes where recycling and trash are taken care of already by a company like Casella, and now they're relying on Casella to take care of their compost too.

"That demand is pretty high," said Casella's Joe Fusco. He says they signed up 250 new clients in Chittenden County last month. Most of them are restaurants and condo or apartment complexes. Some may have to wait a few weeks to get their bins due to the demand. But where they're not seeing demand is for pickup at individual homes.

"We're not really seeing a big uptake in those services. People aren't really willing to do that, and it's not because they don't want to compost, it's that the economics aren't right yet. It's very expensive to add that service, particularly in rural areas," Fusco said.

That's not surprising to Casella. They funded a UVM-led study in 2018 that found 72% of Vermonters said they would prefer to manage their compost on their own. Part of that may involve taking food waste to a transfer station. Chittenden Solid Waste District officials say they're seeing an uptick in compost dropped off at their locations already.