Five-year solid waste plan posted

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BENNINGTON — The Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance has posted its new five-year implementation plan for handling wastes and recyclables in the 13 member towns.

"Our current SWIP (Solid Waste Implementation Plan) runs from 2015 to 2019," said Michael Batcher, regional planner and Solid Waste Program manager with the Bennington County Regional Commission.

He said the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has developed a new materials management plan, which is a state rule that dictates parameters for the alliance's 49-page revised SWIP.

"2020 is a transitional year," he said, "during which we continue to implement our current SWIP while our new SWIP is under review."

According to a media release, the proposed 2020-25 plan "describes the alliance service area, the provision of services such as household hazardous waste events; existing programs and services for the collection of paint, electronic waste, batteries, textiles and other materials, and the provision of outreach activities for schools, businesses, institutions and for events."

Batcher said that, for comparison, the current plan is posted at https://www.bcswavt.org/about-us/.

"I would say the overall goals are very similar between the two plans," he said.

According to Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd, who represents the town on the alliance board, "The new SWIP doesn't change things significantly for all the towns in the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance. We're supporting it and the way forward."

"Recycling and solid waste mandates from Montpelier are increasing each year, most notably the requirement to compost food scraps down to the residential level," said Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe. "Thanks to the collaboration of the municipalities in Bennington County, through the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance and with the assistance of the Bennington County Regional Commission, Manchester and the other member communities have found a means to effectively and efficiently tackle the regional solid waste challenges facing Bennington County and help to reduce the cost to local taxpayers."

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State goals

Expanding options for composting, disposing of hazardous household materials and organic materials, and for recycling paint, oil, batteries and other materials are some of the focus points in the 2015 plan. Most of those activities relate to Vermont's Universal Recycling Law, Act 148, which was enacted in 2012 and established a timeline for implementation of recycling measures while adding new requirements or initiatives each year.

"However, since [the 2015 plan] was adopted, there have been new programs, including alkaline battery recycling," Batcher said. "We have found that many businesses and schools, as well as residents, are not familiar with the many options for recycling fluorescent bulbs, paint, batteries and pharmaceuticals; so we are emphasizing that in our outreach programs."

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For 2020, new requirements relate to significantly reducing the amount of food scrap waste that goes into landfills and encouraging composting. A ban on dumping food wastes in landfills is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

The outreach programs, managed for the alliance by Paula Kamperman, work with schools, businesses and institutions on solid waste issues and state requirements.

In the new plan, solid waste figures provided for the alliance towns show that the overall volume of municipal solid waste rose from 2016 to 2018, but at the same time the rate of recycling and removal of organic materials from the waste stream also rose, resulting in a rising rate in the amounts of waste diverted from landfills.

According to the figures provided, solid waste rose from 54,789 tons to 60,182 over those three years; recyclables rose from 7,757 to 12,637 tons; and organic material diverted from 43 to 5,117 tons.

The report says that, "The table summarizes the materials collected from 2016 through 2018. Municipal solid waste (trash) has increased, thereby increasing per capita generation. However, recyclables and organics have increased as well, so the BCSWA diversion rate or the proportion of materials diverted from landfills rose dramatically."

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That indicates that in a good economy, residents purchased more goods that later entered the waste stream, Batcher said, but that the percentage diverted from landfills increased significantly.

In terms of reducing the generation of all solid waste, the new SWIP aims to reduce both disposed and diverted wastes by 10 percent by 2025

It also proposes to reduce the amount of material disposed by 25 percent by 2025 from 2020 levels, achieve a diversion rate of 50 percent by 2025, and increase food diverted to food rescue organizations by 10 percent by 2025.

Review process

"We had one meeting of the BCSWA board on April 8 to discuss the new SWIP," Batcher said. "We have a second meeting scheduled for June 3. We need to submit our new SWIP for ANR review by July 1. Once they review it and comment, we will need to revise it accordingly and have two public meetings prior to adoption."

The intermunicipal alliance consists of the towns of Arlington, Bennington, Dorset, Glastenbury, Manchester, Pownal, Rupert, Sandgate, Searsburg, Shaftsbury, Stamford, Sunderland and Woodford. The town representatives hold meetings at the Arlington Town Hall.

The overall mission of the alliance is to reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills, by incineration or similar means by reducing the amount of waste generated, conserving resources and promoting recycling and reuse.Comments on the new plan can be emailed to Batcher at mbatcher@bcrcvt.org or through a contact form on the alliance website, www.bcswavt.org, or sent by mail to Michael S. Batcher, Bennington County Regional Commission, 111 South St., Suite 203, Bennington, VT 05201. Comments should be submitted by May 29.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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