Act 148 has been rolled out in phases since 2014, when transfer stations were required to begin accepting recyclables at no extra charge. At that time, the biggest food scrap generators in the state, those that generated 104 tons per year (two tons per week) were required to separate out food scraps.
“That may have included hospitals or colleges,” says Windham Solid Waste Management District Program Director Kristen Benoit. From there, the threshold for requirements went down each year. On July 1, the threshold becomes 18 tons per year or 1/3 ton per week. “So that may include a larger restaurant,” says Benoit.
On July 1, 2020, the diminishing thresholds will be completed and all food scraps, including those from residents, will be banned from Vermont’s landfills, meaning residents will be required to separate food scraps out of their trash. To prepare for that date, transfer stations must begin offering food scrap collection this July. “Which means people will have the opportunity to bring food scraps to the transfer station, drastically reducing their trash,” says Benoit. “Approximately 30% of trash is made up of organics.”
Those who hire a private company to pick up their trash and recycling curbside will also see changes, but not immediately. Originally, private haulers were to be required to start offering a service for curbside food scrap pickup this July. “But the state has pushed back the requirement to offer residential collection until July 2018,” says Trevor Manse, owner of TAM Waste Management.
Manse says the 2020 date is the hard line for residents, but that with transfer stations accepting food scraps now, there is a great opportunity for those who want to start now. “There were people who wanted to do it before,” says Manse. “But we couldn’t justify traveling over the mountain to pick up food scraps from one business or person. We need to be cautious of driving too many miles out of the way to pick up food waste, because the environmental impact is higher to pick it up. So some pragmatism does need to be applied.”
Merrill Mundell, who serves as Wilmington’s representative on the Windham Solid Waste Management District Board, says he expects that there will be some growing pains for individuals. “People aren’t immediately going to transition to food scrap recycling,” says Mundell. “It’s a bit onerous. But I think it will happen with time.”
Mundell says that the impact of the new law may be felt the strongest at restaurants, which will be required to separate out food scraps sooner than residents. “They’re going to have to get into gear and probably do things differently than they’ve ever done them before,” says Mundell. “There’s no question in my mind that some are going to find it very difficult.”
Mundell says that people will start to notice changes around town, such as more options at trash cans. “Anywhere that has a trash container for the public to use now has to have more containers out for recycling,” says Mundell. “There should be three containers at each spot — one for landfill, one for recycling, and one for food scraps. And there will be instructions on what to do.”
Another big change on the horizon pertains to recyclables. As of June 30, the Windham Solid Waste Management District, which towns in the valley have been using for recycling pickup, will no longer collect or process recyclables. As a result, each town has had to contract out to private companies for recycling collection. In Dover, Triple T will be offering single stream recycling, meaning residents will no longer have to sort recyclables.
“Everything that we recycle now will be co-mingled into one compactor,” says former transfer station manager Dave Smith. “So cardboard, paper, glass, aluminum, and tin will all be put into the same collection box. It’s made to simplify stuff for people rather than them having to sort it all.”
According to Manse, recycling negotiations in Wilmington are still underway with TAM, which Manse says will be handling Wilmington’s compost pickup regardless.
Depending on how those negotiations go, Wilmington residents may either have single- or dual-stream recycling at their transfer station and at the recycling receptacle in the center of the village.
Mundell says he hopes all of the changes, particularly with food scraps, are easy enough for people to adapt to. “The thing that we all have to be careful of is that we don’t make laws so onerous that people say, oh the hell with it. That’s what I’m afraid of with this. I hope that they haven’t overstepped. But we’ll see.”