By Rachel Goff
As Valley towns attempt to understand their role in the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which requires that all organic material be diverted from the landfill by 2020, the question on everyone's mind is: Who will cover the cost of sorting, transporting, processing and educating?
"That's the gorilla in the room," Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Waste Management and Prevention Division section chief Josh Kelly said of the currently unfunded state mandate.
At the Vermont Organics Recycling Summit that took place at Vermont Technical College in Randolph on Thursday, April 2, Kelly led a morning workshop in which he explained different aspects of the new law, which will hold schools and businesses accountable for separating compostable materials from their trash.
To do so, Kelly suggested schools create clearly marked sorting stations complete with monitors to ensure that bins for organic materials are not contaminated. "It's really about people making a commitment," Kelly said, explaining that the state is encouraging businesses to develop a three-year sustainability plan that starts with signs and eventually reduces the amount of disposables they use.
As for the money to implement this three-year sustainability, plan there is very little. "We're working on it," Kelly said of the state's efforts to find more funding sources. Already, the Legislature has looked into increasing the per ton fee for franchised haulers, "but that didn't go over well," Kelly said.
So far, the state has given out small grants to about a half-dozen schools to help them prepare for the Universal Recycling Law, Kelly said. "In the meantime, I hope we can find more grant funds for those of you who want to do that education."
While a major part of Act 148 will be developing the infrastructure for sorting and processing organic material, "It's not all about compost," Kelly clarified. It's also about source reduction and donation.
"I've seen many businesses that don't really look at the food they're wasting until they see it in the bucket," Kelly said, explaining that once stores and restaurants start composting, they often take steps to reduce the amount of food that has to be composted.
For many businesses, however, a certain amount of food waste is unavoidable, but for that the state seeks to increase awareness of organizations such as the Vermont Foodbank, food shelves and temporary shelters across the state that accept event leftovers. For food waste that is no longer fit for human consumption, the state also recommends feeding it to livestock such as chickens or pigs at local farms.
For more resources and information about Vermont's Universal Recycling Law, visit anr.state.vt.us/dec/wastediv/solid/act148.