The Valley News published a story recently (Few in Vt. are using compost bins) that appeared to suggest that food scrap collection in Vermont was slow to take off. Now only did it seriously misrepresent the level of composting in Vermont, it wasted an opportunity to tell a bigger story.
In 2016, local households and small businesses dropped off a healthy 743 tons.
In 2012, the Vermont Legislature pointed the state in the right direction with Act 148 (Vermont’s Universal Recycling & Composting Law) by requiring broader access to local recycling and composting facilities. Broader access gives residents greater choice.
Of course, the existence of convenient facilities does not mean that people will immediately begin using them. CSWD’s Drop-Off Centers started offering food scrap collection to Chittenden County residents in 2001. That year, we collected only 42 tons—equivalent to the food waste produced annually at a single local pub.
But as we continued to let people know that food scrap drop-off was an option, the tons continued to grow. In 2016, local households and small businesses dropped off a healthy 743 tons (a 1600% increase).
We know that what works in Chittenden County will not necessarily work for the rest of our state; each community has their own unique landscape. Giving residents a choice means that some will elect to use another option; some may choose to compost at home, or donate their scraps to a nearby farm. The law was designed to broaden local options for Vermonters to manage their resources.
Creating infrastructure to keep local resources out of the landfill is an important first step, but it’s far from the end of the road. Many transfer stations across the state began accepting food scraps less than two months ago. As residents become aware of their options, they may decide that using those facilities is more convenient than other alternatives. They may not. But at least they have the choice.
The Vermont General Assembly unanimously passed Act 148 in 2012 because they believed in a vision for our state; one in which we reuse valuable resources instead of trapping them in an airless tomb. Their vision reflects values that Vermonters share: Efficient use of our resources, stewardship of our land, and local community choice.