New recycling rules take effect this week
ADDISON COUNTY — Beginning this Wednesday, all residents of Vermont will be required to recycle metal, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard refuse in compliance with state’s Universal Recycling Law.
The law, also known as Act 148, is designed to greatly reduce Vermont’s levels of solid waste by phasing in bans on recyclables, leaf and yard debris, and food scraps from the landfill by the year 2020. The first phase of the law only prohibits the disposal of mandated recyclables.
“Mandatory recycling takes effect statewide on July 1,” explained Teri Kuczynski, manager of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. “Municipal dropoffs have to begin taking leaf and yard waste if they already accept trash. In addition, any public properties that have trash bins will have to place recycling bins next to them. There is also a new requirement that any collectors of trash at the curb have to begin accepting recyclables.”
Josh Kelly, an environmental analyst for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, says that the Universal Recycling Law, which was first passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2012, came in response to the state’s stagnated rate of recycling.
“The rate had pretty much plateaued around 30 to 36 percent,” he said. “Efforts to increase that rate were not successful.”
The Universal Recycling Law, however, is expected to subvert that trend and boost Vermont’s recycling rate to 60 percent in addition to a 38 percent improvement in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
For those concerned about access to recycling facilities, Kelly says the law has already begun to address that very issue through a practice known as parallel collection.
“One of the challenges the law actually intends to address is the convenience factor by bringing recycling services to everyone who has trash services,” explained Kelly. “For instance, transfer stations last summer were required to collect recyclables, and haulers are now required to collect recyclables if they collect trash. By providing that convenience and consistency of services around the state, I think it’s going to be a lot easier for people to do the right thing.”
Despite these seemingly dramatic changes, Kuczynski says Addison County has actually already enacted many of the changes that the law mandates.
“Our district is already doing what’s required because we’ve had a waste management ordinance in effect since 1993 requiring all commercial haulers to collect recycling,” she explained. “We’ve also had a ban on leaf and yard waste in the landfill and already require parallel collection. It’s really just minor changes for our district and major changes for other districts.”
As the first phase of the law takes effect this week, Kelly says one of the largest foreseeable challenges is the potential lack of public awareness regarding recycling practices.
“There is a lot of education and outreach needed,” said Kelly. “I think most Vermonters are fairly familiar with recycling, but all of us could use a little bit of help there. The state is working very closely with the solid waste districts and towns to educate residents on what is recyclable and also on what is being required from this new piece of legislation.”
With the new ban come statewide concerns about questions of enforcement.
“People see a law that says you can’t throw away a piece of office paper and their initial reaction is, ‘What’s going to happen if I do?’ We’ve been working to calm people’s fears. This (law) is less about materials that you can’t throw away and more about making it easier to recycle,” said Kelly.
Go online to www.addisoncountyrecycles.org/articles/recycling to see a full list of what recyclables are accepted in Addison County.
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