State law bans food scraps from the trash starting July 1, 2020.
Food scraps are:
- Parts of food items that are typically discarded rather than eaten: peels, rinds, cores, eggshells, seeds, pits, bones, coffee grounds (and filters), loose-leaf tea, and fats/oils/grease.
- Food that was eaten but not finished: "plate scraps" or leftovers that went bad.
What will I have to do?
If it was once part of something alive, like a plant or animal, it does not belong in the landfill. Food scraps and yard debris (leaves, grass, brush clippings, etc.) will need to be managed separately from trash.
Why separate food scraps from the trash?
Food scraps and yard debris make up nearly 1/3 of a typical Vermont family’s waste; at restaurants and cafeterias, food scraps can be over half the waste. Keeping these materials out of the landfill has a big impact:
- Without food scraps in it, garbage is cleaner and less smelly.
- Generating less trash conserves landfill space.
- When it is trapped in a landfill, food waste decomposes slowly, and without oxygen. This process produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas 84 times more powerful than CO2 over a 20 year period.
- Food scraps contain valuable nutrients that are good for the soil. Finished compost can be used in gardens, farms, and landscaping.
- Composting puts your waste to work supporting composters, local farmers, and food scrap haulers.
How does food waste relate to climate change?
According to the book Drawdown, food that is produced but not eaten contributes 8% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing food waste is one of the single most impactful actions for reducing the effects of climate change.
How can I waste less food?
- Buy only what you need
- Eat what you buy
- Eat or re-purpose leftovers or freeze them to eat later
- Remember that "best by" dates are NOT "eat by" dates
- Store food properly
- Keep your refridgerator, freezer, and cupboards organized so you can see what you have
- Cook creatively; use unwanted fruits or veggies in smoothies or soup stocks
- Keep serving sizes small—you can always go back for more
- Learn more at Save the Food
A. Compost on-site
Make your own bin or purchase a container (some solid waste districts or towns offer workshops and discounted bins). Your bin should be enclosed and sit on top of wire-mesh hardware cloth, so animals can't get in.
Cover every bucket of food scraps ("greens") with three buckets of dried yard debris (“browns”), like leaves, dry grass, sawdust, or chipped wood. Covering food scraps with browns reduces odors and creates a good carbon to nitrogen ratio for soil bacteria and other decomposers to break down the pile.
Once the material has decomposed for several months (speed up the process by mixing it once in a while), and cured you can use it as a nutrient boost for your garden. Mature compost looks and smells like dark brown soil.
If you compost at home, it's ok to throw meat, bones, and grease in the trash—those items don't break down quickly in small-scale compost systems.
What about bears and other critters?
Check out our Compost with Confidence guide for tips.
B. Digest on-site
The Green Cone is a solar digester that uses the sun's energy to break down food scraps.
You don't need to add browns, and it IS ok to include meat, bones, and other animal products.
The Green Cone decomposes waste material almost completely, so you will not end up with finished compost that you can use in your garden.
You may be able to purchase a Green Cone from your waste district or town.
C. Feed animals
If you have chickens or pigs, you can feed household scraps to them.
To pervent the spread of diseases, the Agency of Agriculture prohibits feeding pigs food scraps that have touched meat or fish, including their organs, bones, and juices. These regulations do not apply to feeding personal food scraps to pigs that are for personal consumption. To learn more, consult Feeding Food Scraps to Pigs and the Agency of Agriculture's Guidance on Feeding Food Scraps to Pigs.
The Agency does allow feeding food scraps to chickens, at a small scale.
Some food scraps from food manufacturing, such as spent brewery grain and whey, can also be fed to animals.
D. Send it to "The Pros"
Remember! Ask your drop-off facility or hauler what materials they accept.
- Drop-off composting: You can drop off food scraps and yard debris at any transfer station or bag-drop in Vermont. Many compost facilities also have drop-offs. Consult our Materials Management Map or your local Waste Management District or town to learn about services in your area.
- Curbside pick-up: Ask your hauler if they offer leaf and yard debris or food scrap pick-up, or call a hauler on the statewide list of food scrap haulers.
What happens to the food scraps I've separated?
Most of Vermont’s food scraps are composted at composting facilities and some are fed to animals or processed at anaerobic digesters. Click on the map to view facilities around the state.
If you are interested in operating a certified compost facility in Vermont, or if you simply want to increase your composting knowledge, you can add your name to the notification list for our 2019 training by contacting James McSweeney of Compost Technical Services; James@composttechnicalservices.com or (802)224-6888.