MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- More Vermont trash haulers are collecting food scraps from restaurants, colleges and hospitals to be composted -- some are even offering collection sites for residents to dump their banana peels and coffee grounds -- as the state moves toward its ambitious statewide recycling goal.
The law passed by the Legislature last year requires statewide recycling by 2015 and keeping food scraps out of landfills by 2020. A number of cities and counties around the country already are recycling food scraps but Vermont is believed to be one of the first states to mandate that they be kept out of landfills.
"I think that Vermont is leading in this area and it's extremely laudable that they're doing this," said Mark Lichtenstein, president of the National Recycling Coalition.
This week Vermont unveiled its new recycling symbols for trash, recycling and food scraps that it says are similar to logos in other parts of the country so that people recognize and become educated about the practice.
"That's the whole goal is to make it convenient for homeowners," said Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz. Many residents already have a container for single sort recycling and one for trash. They'd get a third one for food waste, she said.
The changes are expected to boost Vermont's stagnating recycling and composting rate from 30 percent to 60 percent at a time when it has only one operating landfill, officials said.
Food waste is serious problem in the United States and there's a lot of it, said Lichtenstein. When included with other green waste such as yard waste and debris, it makes up 40 to 50 percent of the discarded stream. In landfills, it's a big producer of methane gas, which contributes to climate change, he said. Instead of being discarded, food waste can be used for animal feed, turned into compost or energy with anaerobic digesters.