Food Scrap Management
State law bans food scraps from the trash starting July 1, 2020. Learn about requirements for residents, businesses, and haulers in the Food Scrap Ban Guidance.
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 1/4 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. Composting food scraps is also an important climate solution.
How can I waste less food?
- Buy only what you need and eat what you buy
- Learn more at Save the Food
Composting in your back yard... it's easy, saves you money, and produces nutrients for your garden!
Did you know that organic matter (such as food scraps and leaf and brush debris) makes up about 28% of household waste? When this material decomposes in landfills, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Preventing organic materials from entering the landfill not only saves limited landfill space, it also reduces the emissions of methane while enabling us to recapture the nutrient value of the material.
What can I do with my food scraps & leaf/yard debris? There are options!
There is not one right way to manage your food scraps at home, or even at your business, for that matter. Consider which answer best describes your situation, then explore the matching options:
A. Composting at Home or On-Site
Compost in the backyard or on-site at your workplace/school to make a soil amendment for your garden. You can make your own bin or purchase one. 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 for a few more months, 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 can purchase a Green Cone from the Rutland County Solid Waste District.
C. Worm Composting- Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting or vermiculture, produces natural, odor-free compost that takes about 30 minutes per week to maintain. The biggest time investment is harvesting your worm castings (the precious poop/garden fertilizer), and that happens about every 3-6 months. Here's an overview on worm composting and a great page for beginnings to find the information they need.
D. Feeding the Animals
Spent brewery grain and whey are often incorporated into animal diets. Some food scraps are also fed to chickens. NOTE: Agency of Agriculture regulations do not permit pigs to be fed food scraps that contain meat or that have come into contact with any meat (including fish) unless the pigs are for your own family's consumption. Visit the Agency of Agriculture's website for more information.
To prevent 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.
E. Sending Food Scraps to "The Pros"
a. Drive it yourself to a drop-off location
b. Pay for food scrap hauling service to come pick-up
- Drop-off composting: You can drop off food scraps and yard debris at your town transfer station.
- 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 .
These haulers are may also be offering food scrap pickup in Rutland County.
F. Try the Food Cycler!
Difficult for you to Compost?
Try the FoodCycler, a sleek automated countertop kitchen composter that dries and grinds your food waste inhours. Check out their website athttp://www.nofoodwaste.com. The
finished product can be used in your garden or can be fed to your chickens!
Diverting food waste to local farms and food rescues are also great options for diverting food waste from the landfill.
G. Community Food Scrap Share Program - The Solid Waste Alliance Communities, Rutland County Solid Waste District, and 350 Rutland County are pleased to announce the roll out of the Community Food Scrap Share Program. This spring, over 285 people participated in our Composting 101 Workshops. As an offshoot of this educational project, we have created a community share platform after identifying the need for further opportunities for communities to divert food scraps from the trash.
Are you unsure how to divert your food scraps from the trash? Anyone that wishes to donate food scraps to be handled elsewhere can register with contact information and town name, giving a food scrap receiver the opportunity to make contact.
Food scrap receivers (home composters or farmers with animals) can register with contact information and town name, giving a food scrap donor the opportunity to make contact. They can also request, accept and use additional food scraps from neighbors, develop their own systems for drop off, and potentially share in surplus amounts of finished compost in the future.
This project is a win/win on many levels. It builds community, keeps food scraps out of the landfill, and diminishes the amount of scraps that the transfer stations need to have hauled to an industrial compost facility. And it ensures the creation of additional soil and food that will increase our local food security.
Do you need another option to divert your food scraps from the trash? Want more food scraps to make soil or feed animals? Your neighbors may be able to help you out!
Register on this list to be contacted by a food scrap donor or receiver, and see if someone else has signed up that you can contact. You can also post to Front Porch Forum asking if anyone will accept or donate food scraps.
Here's two more options that connect people who would like to donate their food scraps with people who are willing to accept it. Sign up through the ShareWaste app and you can get connected! Another option is to sign up with MakeSoil.org.
H. Worm Composting
Tuck Your Worms in at Night: Subpod Food Scrap Composting Setup Video
Keene, NH asked NRRA to research two food scrap composting systems in order to reduce the weight that is going into MSW (Municipal Solid Waste). Heather Herring created a video to show how she set up a Subpod composting system using worms in her yard to test the ease of setup, use, and amount of material she can keep out of the landfill. NRRA would love to work with organizations, schools, or restaurants in the Keene area using food scrap composting systems. Stay tuned for more as this project continues and for more videos!
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.
What is Compost?
COMPOST is simply organic material that has rotted to the point where plants can use the nutrients. Home composting is a way to manage this process so that it is faster and more convenient.
Composting can be done with almost no effort. Composting is just collecting kitchen scraps and leaves and putting them in a pile or bin. Just add equal amounts of kitchen waste and leaves from the autumn leaf drop and... compost happens!
- It improves the structure and fertility of garden soil, adds nutrients and helps to prevent plant diseases. Returns nutrients to the soil such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron and boron.
- When added to the soil compost helps promote root development, enhances retention of water and nutrients, and makes the soil easier to cultivate.
- When used on the surface of the soil as mulch, compost reduces rainfall run-off, decreases water evaporation from the soil, and helps to control weeds.
- About 40% of the waste we each create is food and yard waste. Composting can also help reduce the amount of materials you send to the landfill and help cut your trash bill down to size. Compost is also a great addition to the soil.
- Reduces the smell in your garbage bags. With all that wet stuff gone, your trash is lighter and less putrid.
- Reduce global warming. Food decomposing in the landfill produces methane, a supercharged greenhouse gas; in your backyard compost bin it doesn't.
- Saves space for longer-lived landfills.
Compost is simple to make, requiring just two things: a container of some sort to hold the ingredients and the compost ingredients themselves.
- Vegetable peels.
- Yard clippings.
- Egg shells.
- Small sticks…
- The list of items you can add to a compost pile is a long one!
- Compost ingredients can be separated into two categories-greens and browns.
- "Green" ingredients provide nitrogen.
- Brown" ingredients provide carbon. You will need three times the amount of browns than greens. Some Browns (carbon): Dry leaves; shavings, small sticks (less than 1 in. in diameter); straw and hay; wood chips.
- Mixed together they make heat, which makes it all rot faster.
- Home Greens (nitrogen): Fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds, filters; tea bags and loose tea; grass and shrubbery clippings; wet leaves.S
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Composting bins are available for sale in many home and garden stores and online. There are also many designs for "make-your-own" composters. Check out the links sections of this page for more helpful advise for great home composting results.
Tips for Controlling Pesky Fruit Flies - Controlling these annoying little pests requires eliminating breeding areas and killing adult fruit flies.
- Remove food sources - Refrigerate or cover ripening fruit, especially bananas, peaches, and tomatoes. Remove any potatoes and onions that are starting to spoil and discard them.
- Contain kitchen scraps - Use a composting kitchen container with a fitted lid to collect scraps for composting. Empty and clean the container frequently.
- Tidy up hiding places - Mop up spills under the refrigerator. Keep the garbage disposal clean. Rinse trash bins.
- Rinse recyclables - Rinse discarded and recyclable bottles and cans, especially beer, soda and juice containers.
- Eliminate damp spots - Fruit flies require moisture to breed, so fix leaky faucets and drains.
The Addison County Solid Waste District has put together a Users Guide to Backyard Composting. It is an excellent reference for beginners or even seasoned composting users.
THREE KITCHEN INGREDIENTS THAT IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL
- Rinse out any egg shells you have and allow them to dry for a few days. When they are dry they crush very easily. This will help them to break down quickly when added to the soil.
- Crushed eggshells improve drainage and the addition of the calcium is excellent for promoting plant growth and preventing blossom end rot in tomatoes and squash plants. You can put them in a Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
- They are a good deterrent for slugs and snails. Scatter a generous barrier around seedlings to protect them.
- Coffee grounds can also be added directly to the soil. They act as a general fertilizer, adding organic matter, improving drainage, water retention and soil aeration. As they break down, they will continue to add nitrogen to the soil.
- Used coffee grounds will not affect the PH level of your soil unless used in very concentrated amounts. However; unused coffee grounds or leftover coffee is always such a wonderful pick-me-up for acid loving plants.
- Coffee grounds also work very well as a mulch around plants. This keeps earthworms very happy as they seem partial to a little caffeine!
- Adding banana skins is another excellent way to improve your garden soil. More, they can be added directly to the ground as long as they are cut up into very small pieces. These will break down faster and allow all the micro-organisms in the soil lots of surface area to work their magic.
- This will create plenty of organic matter resulting in a light, well-drained soil which is full of earthworms. Once the banana skins have broken down they will add powerful nutrients; calcium, magnesium, sulphur, phosphates, potassium and sodium, all of which help plants to grow well and develop their fruit.
Leaf and Yard Debris - Leaf, yard, and clean wood debris are banned from disposal in solid waste and landfills as of July 1, 2016.
Composting Leaves in the Garden – Learn the Benefits of Leaf Compost
Composting leaves is a terrific way to recycle and create a nutrient rich garden soil amendment at the same time. The benefits of leaf compost are numerous. The compost increases the porosity of the soil, raises the fertility, diminishes the strain on landfills and creates a living “blanket” over your plants. Learning how to compost leaves just requires a little knowledge of the balance of nitrogen and carbon. The correct balance will ensure fast composting of leaves for spring time black gold.
Read this article by Bonnie Grant and more at Gardening Know How: Composting Leaves In Garden: Learn The Benefits of Leaf Compost.
- If you know of composters (from facilities, schools, businesses, community sites, etc.) that could use some technical assistance beyond what you provide, they can contact Compost Technical Services for free assistance (ANR/DEC funds this). Assistance includes everything from initial site planning and assessment to permitting support, custom management plans, and systems design. To learn more, contact James McSweeney at 802-224-6888 or james@
Virtual Compost Workshop - SWAC, 350VT.org, and RCSWD provided virtual composting workshops. They were a great success! Here's a link to the final workshop in the series. Enjoy!
Vermont Compost Operator Training
If you are interested in operating a certified compost facility in Vermont, or if you simply want to increase your composting knowledge, sign up for the one-day Vermont Compost Operator Course (~$30 course fee). To put your name on the contact list for the 2020 training, or for more information on compost operator training requirements, contact Ben Gauthier at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 522-5080.
- Compost with Confidence: An introduction to composting options and methods in VT
- The Dirt on Composting: An in-depth guide to composting in your backyard
- Community Composting Resources
- Don't Put Food Scraps Down the Drain
- Infographic: Benefits of Keeping Food Waste out of the Landfill
- Benefits of Redirecting Food Scraps from Landfills
- Bear-Proofing Food Scrap Totes
- Managing Food Scraps
- Reducing Food Waste
- School Composting Guidance
- EPA Guide to Conducting and Analyzing a Food Waste Assessment
- How to Haul Food Scraps
Compost Siting, Design, and Operation Resources
- Site Identification and Design
- Sizing Your Compost Pad
- On-Site Composting Bin Design
- On-Site Bin Management Guide
- On-site Composting Planning Checklist
- On-Site Composting Recipe Guide
- On-Site Composting - Schools
- Compost Recipe Calculator (MS Excel)
- Weed Seed Germination Testing
Communication & Outreach Tools
Go to the Universal Recycling Downloads page for posters, fact sheets, web ads, and signage for recycling, compost, and trash containers.