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Solid waste district offers composting aid

Have you ever wanted to get rid of food scraps and other organic household leftovers, but weren’t sure where to start?
Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) is continuing its free backyard composting workshop series, offering multiple workshops in Vergennes, Shoreham and Middlebury throughout the summer and fall.
The workshops are aimed at small-scale, backyard composting, so you can finally learn how to divert your apple cores and tea bags from the landfill.
“Composting doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive,” ACSWMD Public Outreach Coordinator Annina Seiler said.
The workshops consist of an informational overview about why composting matters and how to do it effectively. Then participants will see a live demonstration, featuring some of the composting equipment that ACSWMD has for sale.
The next workshop will take place at Bixby Library in Vergennes this Saturday, June 9, at 10 a.m.
WHAT IS COMPOSTING?
Composting is an aerobic method of decomposing organic waste into humus, a living ecosystem full of bacteria and microorganisms. Bacteria does 99 percent of the composting job, generating heat to break down the organic matter.
Compost’s ingredients include one part greens — food scraps, coffee grounds, grass, etc. — that provide nitrogen, and three parts browns — dry leaves, wood chips, straw — that provide carbon.
Once the bacteria breaks down the scraps into humus (after around one year, when your backyard compost will be ready), the resulting brown soil-like product can be mixed into garden beds or the soil that your houseplants are growing in to foster their growth. Compared to regular fertilizer, which can wash away and contribute to chemical run-off, compost retains its high diversity of nutrients.
“Compost is like having a handful of almonds, whereas fertilizer is like having a handful of Skittles,” Seiler said. “Which one is going to give you energy for longer?”
WHY COMPOST?
Composting reduces the methane gases from landfills, strengthens soils and reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
“Composting your food scraps will allow you to save money on your trash bill, reduce your impact on the environment, and comply with Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, which bans food scraps from the landfill in July 2020,” ACSWMD wrote in their newsletter advertising the workshops.
According to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, 28 percent of the materials that Vermont residents send to the landfill could be composted instead. There is only one landfill in Vermont — in Coventry — and it receives about two-thirds of the yearly trash that Vermonters throw away.
If the environmental and economic reasons aren’t enough, all Vermonters will be banned from putting food scraps in the garbage beginning in 2020, under Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, signed in 2012.
Also in 2020, haulers offering curbside trash pickup will have to offer collection of food scraps as well.
There are two haulers in Addison County that currently offer collection of food scraps, Draft Trash and Seguin Services. All municipal drop offs in the county, except for Monkton, take food scraps, and you can also bring your food scraps to the ACSWMD transfer station off Route 7 South in Middlebury for free.
Or, attend ACSWMD’s workshop to learn how to compost your food scraps yourself, so you can have what gardeners call “black gold” at your fingertips.
Just locate an area in your yard, choose a container, and compost away.
“No one has a problem with having too much compost,” Seiler said. “If you don’t think you have a use for it, one of your neighbors or the farmer down the road will gladly take it off your hands.”
 
Solid waste district composting workshop schedule
June 9, 10 a.m., Bixby Library, Vergennes
July 12, 7 p.m., Platt Memorial Library, Shoreham
July 21, 2 p.m., ACSWMD Office, Middlebury
Aug. 18, 2 p.m., ACSWMD Office, Middlebury
Sept. 15, 2 p.m., ACSWMD Office, Middlebury
Oct. 20, 2 p.m., ACSWMD Office, Middlebury
 
Correcting common misconceptions about composting
You don’t need to purchase a new container.Dig a pit, lay the waste on a garden bed, or cut holes in an old bin.
Don’t forget the brown stuff!Compost requires three parts brown material. On their own, your food scraps will rot and likely smell.
You can’t stop all pests, but there are ways to manage pests.Is it bear proof? “Well, not really,” said ACSWMD Public Outreach Coordinator Annina Seiler. “But there are ways to make it less attractive.”
Compost isn’t quite dirt or soil. Add it to soil in a garden bed, or mix with water to water your plants.
Compost doesn’t require sunlight.Just find a well-drained area, not too close to the house or garden, but close enough that you will actually use it.
You can put your meat in the trash to avoid pests.Keeping meat, bones, fish, and dairy out of your compost keeps pests away. You can throw these items in the garbage, or you can check to see if your hauler or drop-off site accepts food scraps.

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