By Emma Cotton
On July 1, the third installment of Vermont’s major trash and recycling law Act 148 will be phased in, imposing new requirements on how residents and businesses handle yard debris and how businesses handle food waste.
Landfills will no longer accept yard debris as of July 1. Haulers must offer residents and businesses curbside collection for leaves, brush and clean wood every fall and spring, a service for which haulers may charge. Customers should contact haulers for pricing information.
Residents may still compost yard waste in their backyards or take the materials directly to a facility.
Act 148’s impact on businesses dealing with food scraps varies. Those that produce more than 26 tons of food scraps annually must either donate leftover food or dispose of it at a certified composting facility, provided such a facility is within 20 miles, or compost itself. If no such facility is within that distance, a business does not have to comply.
The Legislature passed Act 148 in 2012 in an effort to limit the amount of reusable and recyclable material going to landfills. According to the EPA, every ton of material that is diverted from landfills saves 2.92 metric tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of taking 17,708 cars off the road.
Lawmakers wrote Act 148 to phase in over seven years in five incremental stages. The first phase came in July of 2014, when all Vermont trash facilities began accepting mandatory recyclables. Businesses that generated more than 104 tons of compost per year were required to donate or dispose of the scraps to a certified composting facility.
In July 2015 Vermont banned all recyclables from landfills and required trash facilities to manage leaf and yard debris. Haulers were also required to collect mandatory recyclables, and recycling bins were placed next to trashcans in all public areas except bathrooms.
Beginning in 2017, all trash facilities must accept food waste, and haulers must offer a service to collect food waste. The businesses that generate 26 tons of food waste or more per year will be required to bring the compostable material to a certified facility. By 2020, food waste will be banned from landfills.
Josh Kelly, Materials Management Section Chief for the Agency of Natural Resources, said state officials don’t necessarily expect a perfect record of compliance, at least immediately, as Act 148 is phased in.
“The intent of this legislation is not about 100 percent,” Kelly said. “It’s about moving us toward a much more sustainable system, and a culture where recycling and compost is easy to do.”
More information about Act 148 is available at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website at dec.vermont.gov.