Starting from July 1, 2020, Vermont state’s Universal Recycling Law bans disposing food scraps in trash or landfills. Food scraps must be collected and stored separately and processed in the compost. 

What are food scraps? 

All of the following count as food scraps:

  • Parts of the food that are not eaten and discarded: peels, cores, shells, etc. 
  • Food that was not finished: plate scrapings and leftovers that have gone bad.
  • Coffee grounds, filters, and paper tea bags are food scraps and should be composted too.
  • Meat and bones can be composted in industrial compost sites, so they should go to compost unless you compost at home.

Why separate food scraps from trash?

  • Separating food waste from landfills reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste makes up the largest proportion of waste stream: around 30% of a typical Vermont families’ waste is food waste and yard debris. When food waste is mixed with trash and disposed of in landfills, it decomposes in an environment without oxygen. This decomposition process releases methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more damaging than CO2. If every Vermonter separated their food waste from the trash, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions reduced would be equivalent to taking 7,000 vehicles off the road each year. 
  • Composting recycles nutrients in food waste by feeding them back into the soil. Energy and resources put into producing the food are not wasted. 
  • Compost is indispensable for resilient and healthy soils. Besides providing a rich variety of nutrients, compost improves the soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. It also helps the soil reach the balance point of density, whether it is too loose or too dense. Check out this fact sheet from the US Composting Council for more information on how composting benefits plant growth. 

Composting on campus

By putting your dishes on the conveyor belt in the dining halls at Middlebury, you’re sending them to be composted together with wood chips and horse manure. There are also green compost bins in your dorms which you can put your personal food waste into. To learn more about Middlebury’s composting process, check out this page. Our composting program composts almost 400 tons of food waste per year, and it has been featured on the EPA website as a case study for high recovery rates of food discards!