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Less waste going into our landfills

WORKERS ARE BUSY installing a new septic system to serve the Addison County Solid Waste Management District’s transfer station off Route 7 South in Middlebury. The district will also be improving its capacity to receive recyclables and food waste, as new statistics indicate the county is preventing almost 60% of its waste from ending up in landfills. Independent photo/John Flowers

Addison County Fair and Field Days visitors who stop by the Solid Waste Management District booth will get a special gift — a versatile metal “spork” intended to replace the plastic cutlery folks often receive with takeout food.

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents are preventing almost 60% of their waste from ending up in landfills, as they continue to embrace reusing, recycling and composting.

That’s one of the major takeaways from the Addison County Solid Waste Management District’s 2021 “Solid Waste Implementation (SWIP)” report, submitted to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources last month.

Updated every five years, a SWIP documents solid waste facilities and services offered in the trash district’s jurisdiction, and explains how solid waste will be managed and reduced to meet regional and state goals.

Addison County’s SWIP, which can be found at tinyurl.com/wd2sv5jb, is a 90-page report that offers an A-Z inventory of the ACSWMD’s operations, waste-reduction strategies, household hazardous waste collection efforts, recycling promotions and composting directives.

Those efforts have been paying considerable dividends, according to the latest trash diversion statistics for the county. Among other things, the SWIP report shows:

•  Addison County residents disposed of waste at a rate of 1.82 pounds of trash per day per person during 2020, which was lower that the 2.06 pounds per day per resident during 2019.

•  The county had a trash diversion rate of 58.65% during 2020, compared to 55.66% in 2018, the last time the diversion rate was calculated.

•  County residents diverted trash to the tune of 2.59 pounds per person per day in 2020. This is based on the fact that county residents and businesses generated 30,757 tons of mixed solid waste last year, of which 18,043 tons were diverted from the landfill.

•  Area residents last year diverted an estimated 1,868 tons of food scraps through backyard composting, while businesses diverted an additional 4,763 tons. The district contributed to those efforts through the sale of 1,691 five-gallon food-scrap buckets, 307 SoilSaver composters, 808 kitchen collectors, and 80 Green Cones.

•  The county’s transfer station last year received 22,197 tons of mixed solid waste and construction/demolitions debris. On the other hand, it collected 4,043 tons of single-stream recyclables — the highest total ever.

•  Despite the pandemic, the transfer station recorded 61,647 transactions.

Teresa A. Kuczynski, manager of the ACSWMD, acknowledged the county’s 2020 trash-diversion performance was aided by a statewide ban on food waste in landfills that took effect on July 1, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role, in that all public schools and some businesses closed for at least a portion of last year. But Kuczynski noted Addison County has had a diversion rate of more than 50% for more than 14 years.

“It’s really difficult to say what caused what; we’re just grateful to see the (trash) numbers going down and the diversion numbers going up,” she said on Monday. “We appreciate the homeowner and businesses efforts to divert, especially food waste right now. It’s been a challenging year.”

The waste diversion success is requiring the ACSWMD to beef up its food waste receiving area at its station off Route 7 South in Middlebury. The district received a $40,000 grant that will help it purchase food scrap toters, a toter-lifter, a toter-washer,  a 30-cubic-yard roll-off box, a truck, and a recycling trailer.

Unfortunately, COVID is expected to delay delivery of the equipment and trailer, as companies are now catching up with back orders.

“It is what it is,” Kuczynski said.

SEPTIC UPGRADES

The transfer station was a hotbed of activity on Monday, as workers were busy improving the facility’s wastewater disposal system.

Kuczynski explained a portion of the work will address septic service for the so-called “hopper building.” The related septic tank currently has to be pumped out frequently — an expensive proposition.

Also, the main septic system serving the transfer station site is no longer adequate to meet waste disposal needs, according to Kuczynski.

“(The system) was here since our original building, and we’ve added to our staff,” she said. “The system will be modified to allow for growth. We’ve had the permits for that for quite some time.”

Officials will inspect the transfer station’s underground leachate tank to make sure it’s not getting any groundwater infiltration. If it is, it will be repaired and modified, according to Kuczynski.

There will be a couple of beneficial bi-products to the septic system work, Kuczynski noted.

It will result in creation of six new, much-needed parking spaces near the ACSWMD office building.

Also, workers will put underground electrical and phone wiring that serves the ACSWMD offices, thereby allowing for removal of a utility pole.

There will be a new sewage pumping station.

“We’re excited to get it done,” Kuczynski said of the project, which should wrap by the end of this month.

The ACSWMD will have a presence at Addison County Fair & Field Days, Aug. 10-14. The district booth will have two waste sorting stations, each staffed with what ACSWMD Outreach Coordinator Jessie-Ruth Corkins called a “waste warrior” — a trained volunteer who can explain proper recycling and food waste diversion techniques.

“We want to give residents a reminder of what they can bring to their town drop-off sites,” Corkins said. “It’s going to be a great educational opportunity to be in front of the general public.”

District officials will be collecting only food scraps at the fair this year, Corkins said. The scraps will go to Vermont Natural Ag Products, a compost manufacturer.

Field Days visitors who stop by the ACSWMD booth will get a special gift — a versatile metal “spork” intended to replace the plastic cutlery folks often receive with takeout food.

Corkins believes the district can make more trash diversion gains by giving people the information and tools they need.

“Recycling isn’t always easy,” she said, “and it does have an ‘ick’ factor that people are working around.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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