Vermont Universal Recycling Law

It’s the beginning of 2017, and with the New Year, businesses in Vermont will face some mandatory New Year’s Resolutions. Starting July 1 of 2017, anyone who generates 18 or more tons of food waste per year will have to divert this waste if they are within 20 miles of a certified organics facility. This is one of many mandates resulting from Vermont’s 2012 Universal Recycling Law (Act 148).

Background of the Universal Recycling Law:

Vermont’s legislature unanimously passed The Universal Recycling Law after a study showed that, while over half of Vermont’s waste is divertible, “only about 35%” was being sent anywhere other than landfills. The study showed this behavior had existed for over 10 years, and such a pattern would indicate significant opportunities for both economic and environmental improvements in the state. To meet these opportunities, the Universal Recycling Law includes a series of mandates that aim to both regulate disposal practices and increase the recycling resources available to businesses and residents of Vermont. Using these new mandates, Vermont hopes to increase its landfill diversion rate to 47% and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2022. These mandates are being introduced over an implementation timeline spanning from July 2014 to July 2020.

2017 Changes to Expect:

As we mentioned, one big change in 2017 will be an increase in food waste recycling. Food scrap generators (or FSGs) who produce at least 18 tons per year of food waste must begin diverting this material from landfills. Here’s what this will mean:

  • FSGs are only required to begin diverting their organics to a certified facility if such a facility actually exists within a 20 mile radius to them. This organics facility must also have the capacity to accept additional material for recycling.
  • FSGs that are not located within 20 miles of a facility with capacity are not required to implement food waste recycling until 2020. Once 2020 arrives, exceptions will no longer be made.
  • FSGs that do begin diverting organic waste are expected to source separate this material prior to recycling. This means that all food waste should be kept separate from other waste materials such as plastics, metal, and paper.

In addition to this new regulation, Vermont will also increase the number of service providers that accept organics for recycling by implementing the following mandates in 2017:

  • Transfer stations and drop-off facilities must begin accepting food waste. However, according to the new regulations, recyclers are allowed to charge additional fees for this new service.
  • Similarly, waste haulers must begin offering food waste collection options to clients. However, clients may see increases to service fees as a result.

Please see the implementation timeline for a full list of mandates and launch periods.

Judging Progress:

So far, “while some businesses and municipalities have raised concerns about the [new] requirements,” according to reports like that of WasteDive, the Universal Recycling Law “has lead to notable results [in] landfill diversion.” Some successes reported thus far include the following:

  • Decrease in landfill rates by 5% (2014 – 2015)
  • Increase in diversion rates by 2% (2014 – 2015)
  • Increase in food donations by 40% (2015 – 2016)

Businesses with locations in Vermont should contact their waste and recycling service provider to understand how the Universal Recycling Law impacts their current program, and of course, contact us today to learn how Northstar Recycling can help manage your company’s waste and recycling programs.

***Feature Image Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Fabrizio-Misson/Shutterstock”