What does Universal Recycling mean for Vermont schools?
With the adoption of Vermont’s Universal Recycling law (Act 148), we are all taking a step to reduce the amount of material that goes to waste in the landfill. Universal Recycling ensures that all Vermonters have convenient and consistent services for recycling and composting throughout the state. The law required recycling of baseline recyclables in 2015, separation or composting of leaf, yard and clean wood debris in 2016, and created a phased-in requirement to divert food scraps that started in 2014 with the largest food waste generators. All Vermont will need to divert food scraps by 2020, with some of the largest schools required to get started in 2017. Schools play a critical role in implementing Universal Recycling throughout the state, as producers of recyclables and organic materials (leaf and yard debris and food scraps) but most importantly as educators. Schools can teach their students why recycling and composting matter, and serve as models for their communities. The behaviors we learn as children become our habits as adults, and the changes schools make today will be second nature for tomorrow’s leaders.
VT DEC Waste Reduction Resources
- School Recycling Guide – How to develop, manage, and sustain school recycling and composting programs.
- School Recycling Scorecard – Take the test and see how your school is doing to reduce waste.
- See our Organics page for information about organics diversion, including resources on designing and building on-site compost systems, compost "recipe" development, and a list of professional organics management service providers.
- See our Food Donation page for more resources, including guidance for creating Food Sharing Tables.
VT DEC School Composting Resources
- Getting Started with School Composting Guide
- School On-Site Composting Program Implementation Guide
- Organics Separation Signage (No Paper, Napkins, or Compostable Servingware; Napkins Allowed, No Compostable Servingware; Napkins and Compostable Servingware Allowed)
- Teacher Curriculum Guides:
The Universal Recycling Law's Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes donation of extra food--if properly handled and not previously served--to food rescue agencies or organizations that feed the hungry. The Guidance for Food Donation contains helpful information on safe food handling for kitchen and cafeteria staff.
Historically, a great deal of unused, high-quality food from school cafeterias has gone to waste, often because of fear of liability should donated food go bad. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (42 U.S.C. 1791) provides liability protection for food donors. Additional protections for schools exist; the University of Arkansas has a great poster for schools, with details: K-12 School Food Recovery Poster.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does my school have to divert food scraps from the trash?
Most schools will not be required to separate food scraps until 2020, although some of the largest may be required to begin in 2017. See the main UR page for details on the food diversion implementation timeline. Why wait until 2020? All schools are encouraged to get started with a food scraps diversion program today!
There’s so much to do! How do I get help?
Talk to others in your school community, including teachers, facilities and cafeteria staff, administrators, parents, and students. A good place to start is your local solid waste management entity, which can provide assistance. Find yours here.
Use the School Recycling Guide below, which provides detailed information on getting a recycling and composting program started in your school, to help guide your efforts. Or, call the ANR Solid Waste Program at 802-828-1138.
Can our school feed leftover food to farm animals?
Yes, but please follow the Swine Feeding Policy from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. Do not feed meat or food scraps that have been contaminated with meat to pigs.
Classroom Resources and Lesson Plans
- Follow That Trail (K-3), US Environmental Protection Agency
- Necessary Wrappers? (K-3), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- A Year of Re-Use Ideas (1-6), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Plan a Waste-Free Lunch (1-6), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Be a Garbage Gumshoe (3-6), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt (3-6), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Case of the Broken Loop (4-5), US Environmental Protection Agency
- Trash Investigators (4-8), Institute for Humane Education
- Life of a Soccer Ball (4-12), US Environmental Protection Agency
- Quest for Less Teacher Guide: A Teacher’s Guide to Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling, US Environmental Protection Agency
- Making Paper From Paper (K-3), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- Don’t Throw Away Our Future: Start Recycling Today (1-5), ReCommunity
- An Ocean of Plastic (3-5), Earth Day Network
- Math Problems: Recycling Economics (7-8), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- Recycling Survey (K-12), Pennsylvania DEP
- The Rotten Truth (3-6), Shelburne Farms
- What is Biodegradable? (4-6), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- How Hot is My Compost Pile? (7-8), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- De “compost” ition (9-12), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- Household Toxic Chemicals (4-6), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- Secret Life of A Smart Phone (5-12), US Environmental Protection Agency
- Green Cleaning Project Guide, Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Reading a Pesticide Label, Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Label Reading (6-12), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Disposal (6-12), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Safer Alternatives (6-12), Solid Waste Division, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, King County, WA
- Mock Trial: Roadside Dumpers (9-12), Cornell Waste Management Institute
- Household Products Database (6-12), US Health & Human Services: health and safety information on common household products, including cleaners, personal care products, art supplies, automotive products, pet care products, and more
- Solid Waste Management Entities throughout Vermont can help your school develop composting and recycling programs, provide technical assistance, or talk to students. SWMEs are collections of towns that coordinate waste management in their region.
- Vermont Building and General Service purchasing contracts, for recycling and food scrap collection containers and other supplies
- Designs for on-site school compost systems
- Chittenden Solid Waste District schools page
- Trash Contract Renegotiation Guide (Produced by Highfields Center for Composting): information for schools and businesses on waste hauling fees, to assist in contract negotiation and cost savings
- Vermont Environmental Assistance Office (EAO) provides assistance to businesses, municipalities, and schools to identify effective and economical ways to reduce waste at the source and protect human health and the environment. EAO's School Science Lab Assistance Program specifically helps schools better manage chemicals and improve science lab safety.
- Hazardous Waste Management and Reduction in Schools
- Hazardous Materials Management in Schools, Chittenden Solid Waste District. Aids K-12 schools in identifying, reducing, and disposing of hazardous waste.
- Northeast Recycling Council (NERC). “Ten states united for environmentally sustainable materials management.” NERC assists schools with projects that will improve reuse, recycling, and composting.
- Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA), School Recycling Club. Workshops and technical assistance on recycling, waste-reduction, hazardous waste, and compost for students, teachers, and staff.
- New England Grassroots Environmental Fund (NEGF) supports community-based environmental projects throughout New England. NEGF provides resources, tools, and trainings, as well as grants to groups and schools beginning or improving environmental projects.
- Shelburne Farms provides environmental and sustainability education for children, adults, and educators, both through their website and at their farm.
- Keep America Beautiful works to build and sustain communities through education and behavior change. Guidebooks available online are comprehensive, contain excellent overviews on waste-related topics, and have many well-designed classroom lessons.
- Institute for Humane Education (IHE). Online classes and workshops on waste reduction and sustainability.
- Cornell Waste Management Institute. Research, outreach, training, and technical assistance, with a focus on organic residuals. Many lesson plans available through their Trash Goes To School program.
- Stop Waste. A California-based public agency responsible for reducing waste in Alameda County. Excellent information and curriculum materials.
- ReCommunity. Non-profit whose mission is to use recycling to build jobs, revenue, and a future for communities. Educational films, lesson plans and other resources for all ages.
- The Story of Stuff Project. Short films, lesson plans, podcasts about how we make, use, and throw away Stuff.