When recycling was first introduced in Vermont, our recycling rate -- the percentage of all waste materials that get recycled and composted instead of landfilled -- improved year after year. Now it has stagnated, remaining between 30% and 36% for a decade, a significantly lower rate than is possible.
Not for long! Until now, recycling services, have been unavailable or limited in many parts of the state. Vermont’s new 2012 Universal Recycling law will change all that, helping Vermont meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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Everything has a carbon footprint. Consider an aluminum can. Extracting the raw metals to make it, manufacture it, transport it and dispose of it all require energy, and the generation and use of that energy cause carbon emissions.
Recycling the materials we use is a huge energy saver. When that aluminum can is recycled, it can be made into a new can with an astounding 90% less energy and carbon emissions than mining virgin aluminum.
Since we have little manufacturing in this state, most of the emissions from manufactured products purchased here occur in other states or countries. Vermonters can reduce our state’s contribution to these harmful atmospheric gases by setting a high bar for generating less waste, and recycling whenever possible!
Zero waste is our long term vision (akin to zero accidents in workplaces). In the near term, ANR’s goal is to help Vermonters recycle 50% of all municipal waste – through reuse, recycling, food recovery, and composting – by 2022.
ANR is working with solid waste haulers, municipalities and solid waste districts to make general recycling services – at the “curb” or at transfer stations – more convenient and more widely available. Universal Recycling now requires recycling of the statewide six —paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, glass, and hard plastics #1 and #2 – everywhere.
Although electronic waste is a small component of the waste that is disposed, it is the fastest growing component of waste. Consider that in 1970, most households had only one TV and no computers. More than 1.6 million pounds of e-waste were collected by Vermont solid waste districts in 2008. That is why Vermont has established new recycling programs for electronics. New programs for collecting batteries, and even paint are also now available. As these materals get collected, a process paid for by their manufacturers, they are recycled, saving energy and greenhouse gas emissions from the production of virgin materials.
Vermonters everywhere are taking action. In 2015, the total tonnage of trash sent to landfills in Vermont decreased by 4%. Vermont’s two largest haulers observed increases in recycling rates, and towns have reported increased recycling rates too.
If you need help with recycling, start by asking your local solid waste district what recycling services are available in your area. Find out where the closest locations are to drop off paint, batteries, hazardous waste, clothing, metal, and more.
Better yet, to help reduce your carbon footprint:
- Reduce your buying where you can, and buy local to avoid transportation emissions
- Choose products with minimal packaging and buy in bulk
- Visit consignment stores
- Trade and reuse usable materials and household items whenever possible!