A bunch of Jericho and Underhill residents braved freezing rain to attend last night’s colorful talk about…well, trash! Jericho resident Michele Morris shared her expertise as Director of Outreach and Communications at Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) to a group that varied in ages from twelve years old to a group of 70-somethings.
Michele explained that one of CSWD’s basic goals is to help people produce less trash. A 2016 study of Vermont’s landfill showed that 50% of the trash (2,100 tractor trailor loads!) could have been diverted, i.e. reused, recycled or composted.
Prior to CSWD’s formation in 1987 Vermont had many landfills. Though still monitored, all have since closed down, except for one located in Coventry, Vermont. Landfills ultimately produce a liquidy “leachate” and methane. While 50,000 gallons of leachate must be removed (then treated and released) each day, some of the methane is collected and actually powers half the homes in Washington County. Michele said that Vermont is one of the most successful states in ridding its landfills of mercury and other toxics.
Michele talked about the importance of Act 148, the Universal Recycle Law, enacted in Vermont in 2012. As opposed to ‘waste management’ from the 80s and prior, this law is about ‘materials management’. The philosophy is to gradually shift toward making use of what used to be simply thrown away. That’s why for example, we’re seeing more and more recycle bins placed side by side with trash receptacles in public spaces.
Michele addressed composting as well; the CSWD strategy is, why throw away any food when it can be turned into a valuable growing medium. Indeed, by 2020 Vermont hopes to have zero food scraps in its waste stream. Act 148 sets yearly goals, incentives and other helpful measures to make this ultimate goal achievable.
While recycling has gotten easier (remember the days we had to sort it ourselves?!) Michele explained that recycling only works when every single step in the process works; collecting enough of each material, sorting, baling and being able to market the recycled products. (For Chittenden County most of this processing happens at the Materials Resource Facility (MRF) in Williston). Recently black plastic has been designated unrecyclable since it is both hard to sort and hard to recycle into something marketable.
While attendees were curious about the “zero waste” concept, Michele said it’s an unattainable goal in the modern world, though still a worthy aspiration. She said the official definition of zero waste is having 10% or less of your trash/waste going to the landfill.
So what can we do to eliminate our trash output, short of changing everything about our lifestyles?! Michele recommended these possibilities:
-Conduct a waste audit on you home school, workplace etc.
-Take on a food waste reduction challenge within your home or neighborhood (CSWD.net/challenge)
-Have a ‘recycle rally’ at your school. CSWD provides ‘Recycle Rhonda’ to facilitate these; indeed, seven schools in the county signed up last year.
In the spirit of transition, TTJ’s steering members plan to pow wow over actions we’d like to encourage here in Jericho at our next meeting, on February 12, 5:30pm at the library; join us there!