This State Has a New Law Banning Food Scraps from the Trash

Coffee grounds, chicken bones, and apple cores in Vermont now need to be composted, binned separately for collection, or dropped off at recycling centers. 

In the late spring, the Composting Association of Vermont held a series of online classes to teach Vermonters the basics of composting, including how to start their first backyard compost pile. Although they're always enthusiastic about keeping food waste out of landfills—and who isn't?—these classes were both timely and beneficial.

On July 1, a new set of environmentally focused laws went into effect in the state which officially banned single-use products including plastic shopping bags, plastic straws and stirrers, and styrofoam takeout containers. The other new law requires the state's residents to stop putting their food scraps in the trash. From now on, all of those coffee grounds, chicken bones, and apple cores have to be composted, binned separately for collection, or dropped off at recycling centers.

Vermont Bans Food Waste In Trash and Requires Composting
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

"If we were to compost Vermont’s food waste that’s in the trash right now, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking about 9,000 cars off the road,” Josh Kelly, the Materials Management Section Chief of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation told NECN. As food waste breaks down, it releases a greenhouse gas called methane, which is an estimated 30 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.

According to Fast Company, Vermont is the first U.S. state to ban food scraps from being trashed. The law is part of the state's decade-long plan to send at least half of its landfill waste to other facilities where it can be recycled or composted. (Some cities have passed laws requiring restaurants—but not individuals—to compost or reuse their own organic leftovers.)

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has launched a "Let's Scrap Food Waste" campaign, and its tips for cutting down on food waste are worth a look, regardless of what you do with your egg shells and orange peels.

First, the Department recommends planning meals in advance and grocery shopping with purpose, so you don't overfill your fridge or buy items that you don't need right this second. If you've cooked everything you bought but still have a few unused ingredients on hand, they suggest finding some "kitchen sink" recipes that can be built around a random assortment of items (hello, little-bit-of-everything omelet). And it's also a good idea to brush up on the best way to store fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure they don't go bad before you use them.

The new regulations might not be a huge deal to most Vermonters. In a recent survey of Vermont residents, more than 70% of respondents said that they had already started composting in preparation for the food waste ban, or they used their scraps to feed pets or livestock. (But, somewhat surprisingly, only 55% of those surveyed were in favor of banning food waste from landfills.)

It's not a terrible idea to start your own compost pile, regardless of where you live. In addition to reducing methane emissions and shrinking your carbon footprint, compost has been credited with enriching the soil, reducing the need for artificial or chemical fertilizers, and providing a home for "beneficial bacteria and fungi." Plus there's still a chance you could become the first Compost Influencer on Instagram—assuming that somebody from the Composting Association hasn't beaten you to it.

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