Vermont has recently implemented a recycling law that will reduce the amount of waste in the state while also working to reduce hunger. The Vermont Foodbank is currently taking food waste that is of high quality and distributing it to people throughout the state who do not have enough to eat. This “food waste,” which is actually quite edible, would otherwise just be dumped in landfills.
Act 148 of the law prohibits organizations that typically throw out over one ton of food per week from dumping that food into landfills. Partner agencies have started collecting food from grocery stores, manufacturers, large farms, restaurants, and through the Feeding America organization. The food collected is checked to ensure it is of the proper quality, and then it is distributed to nearly 153,000 people, which ends up being roughly 24 percent of the state’s population.
According to Alex Bornstein, the chief operations officer for the Vermont Foodbank, food rescue efforts have increased by 30 percent this year. He also stated that the amount of food the organization is picking up from retail stores is up a staggering 209 percent, and the state’s overall waste has fallen 56 percent. In addition, Bornstein said that under .5 percent of the food that is brought into the food bank is going to waste, and typically, that waste is used as food for farm animals or compost instead of being dumped in a landfill. This universal recycling law was passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2012. It’s purpose since inception has been to idle waste diversion rates, put food waste to better use, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from landfills.
According to the Agency of Natural Resources in Vermont, prior to this law being enacted, over 60,000 tons of food was being thrown out every year. What’s even more surprising is that 30 to 40 percent of that food was believed to be edible. Food waste problems are not just specific to the state of Vermont, but they are absoloutley a problem for the rest of the United States as well. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 35 million tons of food was wasted in 2012. Vermont is the first state to carry out a law that reduces its food waste, and hopefully they aren’t the last.
John Sayles, the CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, has said that the new law has been extremely vital in helping the food bank reach its goal of providing food for the Vermont families in need. The Vermont Foodbank reportedly distributed 10 million pounds of food last year, and it looks like this year’s numbers will surpass even that. Farm to Plate Network Manager Jake Claro was impressed with the collaborations that resulted from the law being enacted. He said that the law has created partnerships between organizations that did not exist before, and the movement is succeeding in creating new energy and new opportunities.