- Vermont made recycling mandatory on July 1.
- On the positive side, Josh Kelly, materials management section chief for the Solid Waste Program at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said recycling rates are up around the state; and there was a 20%-30% increase in donations to food banks because of the food waste provision that states, "Businesses that generate over 104 tons of food scraps per year will be required to send those scraps to a donation program, a farmer for livestock feed, and/or a composting facility."
- On the negative side, the ordinance came as falling oil prices contributed to a global drop in the price of recyclables (Karen Horn, director of public policy and advocacy at the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, said the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance is looking at $50,000 in costs this year above its $90,000 budget); some towns fear an increase in illegal dumping (though Kelly said he has received only "one or two" complaints); and some small towns find enforcement difficult.
The purpose of the law, passed in 2012, is to increase the state recycling rate. In the past 10 years, the state has recycled 30% to 36% of all waste, Kelly said, yet 50% of the waste is either recyclable or can be composted.
Waste districts and towns are required to have a plan that complies with the law and shows they can meet requirements. Haulers are required to offer recycling, to bundle the price for trash and recycling, and to notify customers of their obligation to separate their trash.
Benson Selectwoman Sue Janssen noted that the town has been recycling for years, and that small towns don't have the resources to enforce pricing standards on haulers. "If we find that (the hauler) is charging us more, we don’t do business with (him) anymore. That’s how we enforce it — not by doing an ordinance. ... It’s causing us a huge amount of work and it achieves nothing,” she told the Times Argus, adding that a "one-size-fits-all" approach doesn't work.
Cassandra Hemenway, outreach coordinator for the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, said she is surprised by how many people still don’t recycle. "The law, on the face, sounds very complicated and onerous," she said. "The reality is it is really easy. Just stick the item, whatever it is, in one bin instead of another."
Any law that requires people to change their behavior requires an adjustment period and educational outreach, especially as many people find recycling confusing.
Vermont seems like it's off to a good start, with Kelly noting that recycling in White River Junction is up by a third and "that’s pretty consistent with some of the other reports I’ve heard."
In Westminster, town manager Russell Hodgkins said the monthly trash pickup fell from 77 tons a month to "just over 30," saving $45,000 so far this year.