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The 2020 Deadline: What Will You Do With Your Food Scraps?

Do you know what a carrot looks like after a decade in the landfill? It looks pretty much like . . . a carrot! That’s because food and other organic materials don’t break down into compost when they’re trapped in an airless environment like a modern landfill. They rot—slowly.

When organic matter rots, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas up to 36 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. In the US, landfills are the third-largest human-created source of methane.

In 2012, the Vermont Legislature decided to do something about it. It unanimously passed Act 148, the Universal Recycling & Composting Law. Not only does this law make recycling mandatory statewide, it also states that food scraps will be banned from the landfill beginning on July 1, 2020.

Does that mean you’ll have to start composting? Not exactly. But if you’re not already doing something more productive with your food scraps than burying them in an airless tomb, you have two years to initiate a new habit. Exactly what that habit looks like is up to you. You may choose to start a backyard compost pile (bonus: your garden will love it!), hire a company to pick up your food scraps, feed them to your chickens, or bring them to a local drop-off site.

One option you should avoid? In-sink disposal. Wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed for food and other solid items (even when shredded), which can jam up the filters and cause backups. A few carrot peelings won’t hurt. But your family’s annual supply of apple cores and leftover lasagna can cause major problems.

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