Food Scraps: 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, contact us.
Why do I have to start separating food scraps from my trash?
On July 1, 2020 Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law came into full effect, banning all food scraps from the landfill. This Legislation is an attempt to mitigate green house gas emissions. Food scraps and other organic matter decaying in the landfill undergo an anaerobic process as they do not have access to oxygen. This process produces methane gas, a green house gas far stronger than carbon dioxide. Diverting food scraps reduces methane emissions from the landfill as well as save space for items that truly belong there; extending the life of Vermont’s only landfill.
What are my options for managing food scraps?
Your first step should be to reduce wasted food as much as possible to save money and minimize the amount of scraps you have to handle. Your options for the remaining scraps include:
- Feeding animals
- Composting at home
- Using a Green Cone solar digester
- Dropping off food scraps at the District Transfer Station or your town drop-off
- Requesting curbside collection service from a hauler that collects food scraps
Check out our tips for collecting food scraps and learn what is accepted at drop-off locations.
Can't I just put scraps down my garbage disposal?
No. Food scraps, fats, oils, and grease should never go down the drain because they can cause clogs, back up sewer and septic lines, require additional energy for processing and removal, and increase operating and repair costs. Kitchen sink garbage disposals don't help. Sewers, septic systems, and wastewater treatment facilities in Addison County are not designed to handle anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Learn more about what can and can't go down the drain.
Will it cost me?
The best way to manage food waste in a cost-effective way is to reduce waste to begin with. Residents can bring food scraps to the District Transfer Station in Middlebury for a minimal fee. Curbside haulers and town drop-offs may charge for the service of collecting food scraps. If you compost at home, you could save money by reducing the weight and volume of your trash. Without food in your trash, you may be able to cut down on your trips to the drop-off, or request less frequent curbside pickup.
Are there trash police?
No one will be opening bags of household trash to see if you have food scraps or recyclables in there. The purpose of the Universal Recycling Law is to create statewide infrastructure and practices to keep recoverable resources out of the landfill. The spirit of the law is to set up consistent systems statewide that make it convenient and cost-effective for Vermonters to separate their food scraps and other banned items from the landfill, and encourage folks do the right thing. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources does have the authority to enforce the Universal Recycling Law, and prioritizes working collaboratively with food waste generators to ensure compliance with the law.
What about meat and bones?
The town drop-offs and the District Transfer Station accept all food scraps, including meat, bones, fish, dairy products, fats, and oils. Large amounts of used cooking oil are also accepted at the District Transfer Station.
If you decide to compost at home, leave meat and bones out of your compost because it can attract wildlife. Home composters are allowed to put meat and bone scraps into the trash after July 1, 2020. Alternatively, bring your meat scraps to a town drop-off or the District Transfer Station, use a Green Cone solar digester, or bury bones at least 18 inches deep in your yard or garden.
What about attracting animals?
The Universal Recycling Law requires separating food scraps from the trash, but it does not require residents to compost at home. By separating your food scraps, you are simply putting the same materials you already had into two separate containers instead of one. We recommend keeping your food scrap bucket inside, such as in a garage, basement, shed, or the freezer until you are ready to bring them to a drop-off location.
If you are composting home, follow our home composting guidelines to prevent odors and keep from attracting wildlife. As always, minimize bear attractants in your yard such as unsecured 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.