Talking Trash 2.0

LONDONDERRY - On Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m., the Londonderry Transfer Station will be holding a trash sort, looking through about 20 bags of garbage to determine how well recycling measures have been working.

At the same time, Esther Fishman, the Recycling Coordinator for the Londonderry Solid Waste Group, among others will be educating the public about Act 148 - the new Universal Recycling Law.

"I wanted to get a real feel for what we have in our trash because with this new universal recycling law we're going to have to remove things from the trash that we don't necessarily have to now," Fishman said. "Now it's going to be law. It's going to be mandated and there are specific things that will be banned from going into your trash. So, I wanted to get a feel for how well we were doing because I think it needs to be really positive and I think people need to hear about this new law often because it's going to take a while for people to get used to the changes."

In 2014, facilities that offer trash services must also provide services for managing mandated recyclables which include aluminum and steel cans, aluminum foil and aluminum pie pans, glass bottles and jars from foods and beverages, PET and HDPE plastic bottles and jugs, corrugated cardboard, white and mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, catalogues, paper mail and envelopes, box board and paper bags. When the law eventually goes into full effect by July 1, 2020 even residents will be required to recycle banned recyclables, leaf and yard debris and clean wood, and food scraps. However, it is the large generators of these materials - such as food processors and restaurants - that will be unable to send these materials to landfills at an earlier beginning with the largest producers in 2014.

Trash haulers must provide the services for the aforementioned recyclables by 2015, which is the same year - beginning on July 1 - that the new law will begin impacting residents.

As for leaf and yard debris, facilities are expected to provide services for them by 2015, but trash haulers will not have to provide those services until the following year - around the same time that it would begin to impact residents. While both facilities and haulers will be required to provide services for food scraps beginning in 2017, that portion of the law is not expected to have an effect on residents until July 1, 2020

According to Trevor Mance, owner of TAM, Inc. in Shaftsbury, any entity that produces over 104 tons of organic material next year will be required to recycle it. The following year that limit gets cut in half to 52 tons and continues be cut in half with every subsequent year until 2020 when the law will effect residents.

A big part of the recyclable stream Fishman said comes from food waste - somewhere between 21-30 percent. In addition, Fishman said the statistics that are found on the Internet are that over 36 million tons of food waste goes to the landfills each year.

Food scraps include such things as cooked items, uneaten leftovers, and food that begins to mold among other items. All of that will eventually be banned from being included with the trash and being taken to the landfill. Fishman also made the point that the people who do currently compost usually do not put things such as meat, bones and dairy into their compost heaps - items that will also be banned from being sent to the landfill. "The solid waste districts around the state are going to have to figure [it] out for their residents to be able to do that," Fishman said. "Because there are people who can't compost for a variety of reasons; they don't have room, they're not here all the time, the don't want a pile, they don't want animals around, there's lots of different reasons."

Vermont had two landfills - one in Mooretown and another in Coventry - but the Mooretown landfill is now closed. That leaves the Coventry landfill as the main dumping site in the state. However, some of the state's waste is also taken out of state.

With the implementation of the new law, one of the issues that both Fishman and Mance said they expect to run into is enforcing it.

"That's honestly our biggest concern with the law is enforcement," said Mance. "We as a private business cannot be expected to be for lack of a better word the garbage police. We're going to need reinforcements from somebody else whether it be Waste Management Division at ANR or I don't know. I don't know who it's going to be, but we think it's particularly hard on local businesses to have to police their own customers."

Fishman said that the state is telling haulers doing curbside collection that if they find a large number of banned materials in the trash that they have the option to leave the trash at the house with a note stating which items should not be in the trash and for the those items to be separated so that they may be collected the following week. Mance said that his drivers currently leave notes and that the company will continue to educate people on what is recyclable. The other option, Fishman said, is for them to pick the materials up, bring it to a facility where it will be separated and include an extra charge in the person's bill.

Mance said his company is promoting the composting portion as much as possible and providing the service for free in an effort to get people to go along with it and so far there are some people that are buying into the idea even though it is not required of them at this stage. Mance said The Dorset Inn, Bistro Henry's and The Bagel Works in Manchester are among the new customers he has gotten that have begun composting.

"There are some businesses that this law does not apply to, but they're doing it because it's the right thing," said Mance. "They're doing it because they see the environmental impact and they want to be as environmentally conscious as possible and this law was kind of a nudge to promote that. So, we're excited to see the buy in rather with the carrot than the stick."

Even though they have a commercial composting facility, Mance said that they are still encouraging people to compost in their backyards because it makes the most environmental sense. By people composting in their backyards, Mance said they would not only receive the benefit of the good soil for their gardens, but it would decrease the amount of homes they would have to pick those materials up from thereby lessening the amount of travel by trucks, which use diesel fuel.

From a monetary standpoint, Mance said that the change will be cost neutral. However, with a greater emphasis being placed on recycling, there will be more jobs created in the industry. For every landfill position that is lost in the transition, four more will be created due to the increase in recycling. "There's an economic incentive here, employment incentive for us to recycle more because it does take a lot more effort to recycle than it does to pick up a garbage bag, put it into a compacting truck, dump it on a floor and just roll it into a tractor trailer and off it goes," said Mance. "Recycling there's sorting, there's picking, there's processing, there's bailing, there's trucking to an end market, grinding and reusing it. So, there's a lot more jobs created."

The rain date for Saturday's trash sort will be on Monday, Oct. 21, beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Londonderry Transfer Station on Route 100 between Londonderry and Weston.


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