On December 14, 2016

State releases Universal Recycling Status Report, says “it’s working”

On the heels of America Recycles Day—a national celebration of recycling held each Nov. 15—the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its first “Universal Recycling Status Report,” according to the Dec. 5 news release. The 16-page report summarizes the status of recycling, composting, and food donation across the state.
Vermont’s Universal Recycling law (Act 148) passed unanimously in 2012 with the goal to reverse decades-long stagnant recycling and composting rates. It is working, according to the report.
The law requires recycling of “blue bin” recyclables (paper, cardboard, steel and aluminum cans and tins, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles and containers #1 and #2) and not disposing of leaf and yard debris, clean wood and food scraps over a six-year timeframe. Universal recycling also makes it easier and more convenient for Vermonters to recycle and compost by ensuring that services are available for the collection of recyclables, leaf and yard debris, and food scraps at transfer stations around the state. As of July 2016:
Trash disposal decreased 5 percent statewide from 2014 to 2015;
Recycling and composting increased by 11,793 tons from 2014 to 2015 (2 percent);
Food donation grew by nearly 40 percent, according to the Vermont Foodbank; and
More Vermonters have access to recycling collection than ever before.
“Vermont’s waste haulers and managers deserve a great deal of credit for these recycling achievements.  They are out there every day, helping people recycle and teaching them how to compost,” said DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren.
“Act 148 is another step in the strong history and already robust ethic of recycling in Vermont. It is certainly a crucial element in the progression of the value of resource renewal and conservation across Vermont’s economic and environmental landscape,” said John Casella, CEO of Casella Resource Solutions.
“Since state recycling kicked-in, we have seen a huge jump in recyclables from both residential and commercial customers. Most people already did this, but now there is a little extra motivation,” said Jeff Myers, president, Myers Container Service.
Universal recycling saves valuable resources, promotes sustainability, reduces GHG emissions from solid waste by an estimated 37 percent, supporting green jobs, creates new markets and business opportunities, and reduces the need for landfills, improving the health of our environment, the release stated.
“Organic materials—food scraps, leaf and yard debris, clean wood, and compostable dirty paper—make up almost a third of our waste.  Every year, nearly 100,000 tons of organic material is estimated to be landfilled in Vermont,” said DEC Solid Waste Program Manager Cathy Jamieson.
To help implement the Universal Recycling law, Vermont currently has:
10 certified food scrap composting or anaerobic digestion facilities
13 permitted food scrap haulers that offer services from areas such as Bennington and Brattleboro to St. Johnsbury and St. Albans.
17 farm digesters—many already taking food processing residuals
100s of businesses, schools, and institutions that have recycled and composted for years.
Eric Paris, owner of Kingdom View Compost in Lyndonville, said, “We consistently sell out of our compost in the spring and continue to get calls for it into the fall. This is an important source of revenue for our farm and we hope to expand to accept more food scraps and create more high quality compost.”
“Vermont’s Universal Recycling law has shifted the focus from feeding landfills to feeding hungry Vermonters,” said DEC Commissioner Alyssa Schuren. “What is not donated can be fed to animals, composted, or used to create renewable energy in anaerobic digesters.”

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