Vermont Bans Disposal of Recyclables, Mandates PAYT

Recyclable metal, glass, plastic and fiber materials are banned from disposal in Vermont starting this month.

Haulers throughout the Green Mountain State must now provide curbside collections for recycling if they provide them for trash. Garbage service providers must now also charge customers under a pay-as-you-throw rate model intended to drive recycling tonnages.

Those are the major provisions of a universal recycling law that took effect July 1. The small state of 627,000 people has one landfill, and lawmakers unanimously passed the recycling bill in 2012 with an eye partly toward preserving the landfill's life by increasing diversion rates.

The state's current diversion rate is about 36 percent; the new law, when fully implemented in 2020, is expected to increase the statewide diversion rate for municipal solid waste to about 50 percent, according to the Vermont Materials Management Plan.

Starting July 1, residents were required to recycle the following materials: aluminum and steel cans; aluminum foil and pie pans; glass bottles and jars; PET and HDPE containers; corrugated cardboard; paper (including mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, paper mail, paper bags and envelopes); and box board.

Under the law, yard debris will join that list starting July 1, 2016. A ban on disposal of food scraps will be implemented in phases, but all businesses and households will be prohibited from disposal of that material by 2020.

Some stakeholders say the law may not be workable in rural areas, according to White River Junction, Vt.-based Valley News. For example, Casella Resource Solutions says the requirement that it provide parallel curbside collections of garbage and recyclable materials may mean it has to drop all service in some sparsely populated areas, because rates are barely enough to sustain garbage service as is.

A February 2015 report from the state's Solid Waste Infrastructure Advisory Committee estimated $45 million will be needed for additional infrastructure – including cart procurement, additional collection trucks and organics facility construction – to comply with the law. The state's two materials recovery facilities already possess the capacity to handle additional materials, the report found.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and local solid waste districts will have enforcement authority under the law. "However, education and outreach will be the initial method of implementing universal recycling," according to the ANR's website.

Chittenden County, which accounts for about a quarter of Vermont's population and is home to the city of Burlington, already had a ban on disposal of recyclable materials in place. Its list of materials for mandatory recycling mirrors the state's list, except it includes a disposal ban on all rigid plastic packaging and containers.

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