Food recovery plans increase utility, reduce waste

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A chart shows the order of steps in which the DEC suggests leftovers should be managed.

How will Act 148 affect your business?

By Carl Diethelm

This summer, Vermont businesses are taking another huge step in green initiatives.

From restaurants to grocery stores, schools to nursing homes, they all have leftover food that can’t be redistributed to customers. Throwing away what’s left on a plate at the end of the meal also contributes to the location’s “food scrap generation.”

Rather than sitting useless in the landfill (and creating methane gas that pollutes the atmosphere), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) encourages Vermont businesses to exercise creative ways to deal with food scraps, other than composting them or putting them in the landfill. All businesses must separate their food scraps from trash by July 1, 2020, and some before then.

Even when Act 148 Universal Recycling Law bans food waste from the landfill, composting should be a last resort for food that is still edible. The DEC has produced a chart and strategies that show the order of steps in which leftovers should be managed.

Source reduction:

  • Menu engineering to include leftovers in future meals, especially at buffet restaurants
  • Offering take-out to customers

Food for people:

  • Donating leftovers to food banks, soup kitchens, and missions. Donors that maintain proper food temperatures are exempt from liability by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act

Food for animals:

  • Donating food to local farms after removing it from the packaging benefits a reliable source of feed

These options will also exempt your business from the costs of hauling the food waste to a certified facility. In Rutland County, there are no certified compost or anaerobic digester facilities, though some are in the process of becoming certified. Once that happens, businesses with the most food waste will be notified if there is capacity to process their food scraps, and that they must begin separating food scraps from the trash to comply with the law.

Here are some key deadlines to keep in mind for your business or institution:

  • July 1, 2016: businesses producing 26 tons or more of food waste annually (½ ton per week) must send it to certified composting facilities within a 20-mile radius. A business outreach coordinator will be in touch with most restaurants by that date, but if you would like to be proactive with your business, feel free to reach out before then.
  • July 1, 2017: all trash and recycling pick-up services (haulers and transfer stations) must offer to also pick up food scraps for residents and businesses. All restaurants, grocery outlets, and other institutions producing food waste will have to begin separating food scraps by then to comply with the law. Contact your hauler to find out when they will offer this service.

For more information about the Act 148: Universal Recycling law, visit the DEC’s website at

For more resources on managing food scraps, contact the Rutland County Solid Waste District office through the website, or by phone at 802-775-7209.

For businesses in Solid Waste Alliance Communities management, visit, or call 802-342-5701.

Carl Diethelm is an intern for Rutland County Solid Waste.

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