In 2020, food scraps and other organic material will be banned your trash can (it’s already banned for businesses that generate large amounts). So what’s a food-lovin’ human to do with all those meat and veggie scraps once the lopping and chopping is over? Don’t look at your garbage disposal for answers—Just ask the folks who manage wastewater treatment plants and witness the repercussions of putting the wrong things down the drain.
“Organic overload is a concern on septic tanks as well as in wastewater treatment systems,” says Jim Jutras, Water Quality Superintendent at the Water Resource Recovery Facility in Essex, VT. “Another concern is ‘hydraulic overload,’ where home septic systems and municipal systems, designed only to carry water and human waste, accumulate material that can cause trouble, such as ‘flushable’ wipes, grease, and food scraps. This can result in costly repairs or sewage overflows.”
Some residences don’t have their own system, but do connect directly to a municipal wastewater treatment plant, via pump stations, which require regular maintenance due to the increase in food scraps and “flushables” that can hang up in the pump and cause backups and sewer overflows.
When the Vermont Legislature passed Act 148 in 2012, they were concerned that the state’s only landfill would be “land-FULL” before we could find an alternative. Additionally, when food scraps, paper, and other once-living material is buried in the airless tomb of the landfill, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas about 20 times worse for our planet than carbon. Just as we’re doing our best to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s good to make an effort to take responsibility for our methane footprint as well.
The bottom line
Drains and garbage disposals are not the solution for handling your food scraps. Public and private water systems, especially older ones, are not designed to handle much more than human waste from your toilet, rinse water from the kitchen sink, or bath/shower water. Even items marketed as “flushable” can cause problems.
View our Food Scraps page for options, whether your a resident or a business. Or call the CSWD Hotline at (802) 872-8111 and together we’ll figure out what works for your household, business, or event. Drop us a line—we’re here to help!