A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

As you are probably well aware, the three chasing arrows in the recycling symbol stand for what is often referred to as the three “Rs,” Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And as you have probably also noticed, this column from time to time addresses the reduce and reuse efforts also.

Thus today, after seeing TV ads on how much food is wasted in this country (over 40 percent), we will again talk a little about the reduce effort, as it applies to food waste. Most of this information taken from an article in a recent Resource Recycling eNewsletter.

The article started: “For the U.S. to truly move the needle on recovery of food material, it’s clear local programs will need to do more than just target the residential sector.

“Huge tonnages of food head into the waste stream from restaurants, food producers and many other players in the commercial realm. Many major generators have made admirable moves to divert more of this material. But one perhaps overlooked area is smaller, independent businesses that may not have the in-house expertise to launch initiatives.”

To show what can be done, the article addressed the efforts currently being used in two solid waste districts in Vermont. These efforts “show how a variety of stakeholders can work together to find mutually beneficial solutions that keep food out of landfills.”

We find the “generators in the Green Mountain State are in a relatively unique situation in that they are required by state law to take action on this issue, but the steps organizers and operators are taking there can help inform progress on organics in any jurisdiction.”

One thing we were not aware of is “with around 627,000 residents, Vermont is the second-least-populous state in the U.S. (only Wyoming has fewer people).” However the commercial food-service sector there is very active.”

This is because, the state’s reputation for outdoor recreation and healthy living attracts people from around the U.S. and Canada to ski, enjoy summer outdoor activities and autumn “leaf peeping” opportunities. If we include shops, restaurants, resorts, hotels and breweries, this state has about 80,000 small businesses.

Back in 2012, to increase Vermont’s undesirable lower recycling rate and to conserve space in its only operating landfill, the state legislature unanimously passed the Universal Recycling and Composting Law.”

This law made it illegal to dispose of three major types of materials in the landfill:

1) Recyclables, including paper, cardboard, aluminum , steel cans, glass bottles, PET and HDPE plastic containers (bottles and jugs)

2) Yard debris and clean wood

3) Food scraps, phased in starting with the largest generators and becoming a full ban by July 2020.

To assist its citizens in this effort, “the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has worked with solid waste districts, towns, haulers, processors, businesses and other stakeholders to roll out educational resources about source reduction, recovery, recycling and composting.” Additionally, “to assist in implementation of the law, the state provides grants and other assistance to solid waste management entities (districts, alliances and towns).”

There was considerably more good information on what Vermont has done/is doing to reduce food waste. For example, food donations to the needy have increased by over 27 percent. If you are interested in the whole article, please just email me and I’ll try to forward it to you in a reasonable time. I’m up in Minnesota now and it will have to wait until I’m back in Texas.

Till next week, have a good one and a Happy & Safe Halloween

Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu

San Marcos Daily Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666