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Food Scrap Frequently Asked Questions

Unsure about what the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) requires you to do with your food scraps? Read some of the commonly asked questions we get from residents. If you have a question that's not covered or if you think we're missing something, contact us.

Do I have to start separating my food scraps from my trash?

Not yet – residents are not required to separate food scraps from their trash until July 1, 2020. The District Transfer Station in Middlebury and almost all of the town drop-offs are already accepting food scraps. Haulers are not required to start collecting food scraps at the curb until July 1, 2020. 

So, what do I have to do?

You are not required by law to do anything until July 1, 2020. However, if you did want to start separating food scraps from your trash early, you have so many options. You can feed the scraps to chickens, compost at home, or bring your food scraps to the District Transfer Station (for free!) or to your town drop-off. Essentially, you just need a bucket to collect scraps and most likely a smaller container to collect scraps right in your kitchen (you can use a coffee can, yogurt container, or whatever is easiest for you! Even a plastic bag in your freezer works too, and eliminates any chance of fruit flies/odors). ACSWMD sells a countertop Kitchen Collector for $5 and also gives each household one free 5-gallon bucket for food scrap collection. Check out our tips for collecting food scraps and learn what is accepted at the drop-offs.

What drop-offs are collecting food scraps in Addison County?

Thanks to our local haulers and drop-off coordinators all of our town drop-offs are offering food scrap collection.  Those include Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell, Ripton, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes (Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton and Waltham residents may also use this facility), Weybridge, and Whiting.

What haulers in our area are collecting food scraps?

Only a few haulers have begun to offer curbside collection. Other haulers take food scraps at local drop-offs. See our list of licensed haulers for information about which haulers collect food scraps, and call them if you wish to inquire about pricing for food scrap collection. 

Can I use bags in my food scrap buckets?

Yes, you may either use paper bags or newspaper to line your food scrap bucket, or may use BPI-certified compostable bags (make sure it has the BPI compostable symbol shown here), you can use those too. Note, the compostable bags are not suitable for backyard composting, but newspaper or paper bag liners will work fine in a home compost pile.

Will this cost me?

If you would like to bring food scraps to the drop-offs, haulers can charge for that additional service they are offering. However, if you wanted to bring your scraps to the District Transfer Station in Middlebury, you can do so at no charge during our normal hours. Additionally, if you decided to compost at home, you would likely save money because most of the weight in your trash is food. Without food in your trash, you could cut down on your trips to the drop-off!

Are there trash police?

No one will be sorting through your trash to see if you have scraps in there. The point of the Universal Recycling Law is to help set up a statewide system to keep certain things from the landfill because of their harmful or noxious properties when they are in the landfill under anaerobic conditions. Food scraps, clean food and leaf and yard waste are all of those things. They both take up space and release methane gas when they are in a landfill, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The spirit of the law is to set up systems that would make it easier for folks to separate their scraps and other banned items from the landfill, and encourage folks do the right thing.

What if I want to compost?

That’s the best option out there! It keeps the scraps (and their nutrients) local, you can make nutrient-rich compost in your own backyard, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions (from trucking those scraps up to the landfill, and then from the scraps breaking down in an anaerobic environment in the landfill itself) AND it will help you save money by reducing trash costs. Learn more about home composting or sign up for a free beginner backyard composting workshop. You can also sign up for an online course to become a Vermont Master Composter, offered online each fall by the UVM Extension. 

What about meat? Bones? Oil? Pet waste?

The town drop-offs and the District transfer station accept all food scraps, including meat, bones, fish, animal fats, etc. If you have a lot of used cooking oil, you can bring that to the Transfer Station in Middlebury and it will be turned into biodiesel. You CANNOT put pet waste into the food scrap bucket.

If you decide to compost at home it is best to leave meat scraps and heavy dairy products out of your compost because it can attract wildlife like raccoons, bears, etc. Home compost piles usually are not hot enough to properly break down meat scraps anyway, meaning that any potential pathogens on meat would not be eliminated by composting. For all of these reasons, it’s best to keep them out of your food scrap pile. Again, NO pet waste in your backyard pile either.

If you compost at home, you are allowed to put your meat and bone scraps into the trash for landfill. However, you can also compost your produce scraps at home, and bring your meat scraps to the town drop-offs or District Transfer Station!

If you are looking to do something with your pet waste, and would rather handle your meat scraps right at home, one option is to purchase a Green Cone solar digester, which we sell at the District Transfer Station for $125. Green Cones handle food scraps including meat, fish, bones and dairy, and can also handle pet waste.

What about bears? Rats? Raccoons?

Remember, whether the food scraps are in your trash or in a separate container, it’s all the same material and if you have not had issues with wildlife up to this point, you will likely be fine. However, if wildlife get into your trash and you are concerned, we suggest keeping your food scrap bucket inside (i.e. your garage or a shed) until you are ready to bring them to the drop-off. If you are composting, make sure you layer your food scraps with a thick layer of browns (such as dry leaves or wood shavings) every time you bring food scraps out to your pile to dampen the smell. Also, turn it more. Once the pile becomes more homogenous, animals will not bother with it. Finally, minimize other bear attractants in your yard such as smelly garbage cans or dirty recycling, dirty BBQ grills, bird feeders, pet food, and citronella candles. Any of these things can attract a bear to your yard, who then decides to see what else they can find.

It should be noted that no container is fully bear-proof. Reducing smells is key. If you have a curious bear despite not composting meat or dairy and having plenty of browns in your pile, if for whatever reason none of the above suggestions work to keep the bear out of your yard and compost pile, electric fencing can be used to deter a bear. If you have an incident with a bear in your yard (property damage, visits to birdfeeders, compost bins or garbage, bears on porches or decks), please report it to Vermont Fish & Wildlife.