DOVER -- Selectboard members were relieved to hear that new solid waste legislation will not bring financial penalties upon the town if residents and second homeowners do not abide by it.
"I don't think Act 148 is going to be very difficult for Dover," said Executive Director of Windham Solid Waste District Bob Spencer.
On Jan. 21, he visited the Selectboard and gave a brief history of the bill, which began two years ago and was highly supported by state legislators.
"Quite frankly, most of Vermont's waste is going somewhere else. There was sort of a Vermont Legislature desire to manage the cost of waste," said Spencer.
Currently, one landfill remains in the state. It is near the Canadian border in Coventry. The rest of the waste is hauled to places such as New York and Pennsylvania.
The universal recycling law, known as Act 148, aims to reduce the amount of material that ends up in landfills by essentially mandating recycling.
According to a fact sheet from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the benefits of the law are to lower greenhouse gas emissions (estimated to be a 38 percent improvement), foster stronger community connections, stimulate green jobs, and support the local food system. It will also "increase recycling (estimated increase from 33 to 66 percent and reduces the need for landfills)."
"More recycling conserves resources and reduces energy consumption," stated the document. "Universal recycling provides consistent and convenient collection services across the state."
A three-ring binder was given to the Selectboard containing information pertaining to Act 148. Spencer advised that more guidance documents are available online.
By July 1, facilities that offer trash services must also provide services for managing recyclables. This would include the Dover Transfer Station. By July 1, 2015, if haulers offer curbside trash collection then offering curbside recycling will also be required. One other collection will also need to be offered at the station in 2015. It has to do with clean wood scraps as well as leaf and yard debris.
"By adding a yard and leaf debris Dumpster, you'll be fully compliant there in 2015," Spencer told the Selectboard. "You could also do an on-site composting operation."
Trash haulers will need to do the same by 2016. By July 1, 2017, food scrap containers will need to be offered, which Dover already offers at the station. At the same time, haulers will need to offer the same collection.
For residents, the timeline looks like this:
-- July 1, 2015: Mandated recyclables are banned from landfills.
-- July 1, 2016: Leaf and yard debris and clean wood scraps are banned from landfills.
-- July 1, 2020: Food scraps are banned from landfills.
By the last mandate, the full extent of the law is expected to be in effect around the state.
Member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, told the Reformer that he has been in talks about how Act 148 is hurting smaller haulers.
For this legislative session, Hebert did not believe there would be any significant changes to Act 148 but the committee would be pushing towards some amendments.
One section of the act that has drawn concern has to do with billing. The clarity of the language could make haulers' customers believe that the price won't change because it won't be a separate charge. But a bundle charge for recycling and trash hauling wouldn't necessarily mean the price will stay the same.
"(The Agency of Natural Resources) is saying you can't bundle the charge but haulers are saying they want to be clear there's an additional cost," said Hebert.
Another concern has to do with cost effectiveness for existing small haulers. Some of those haulers will have to make two trips because the trucks won't be able to hold the mixture of recycling and trash. A second trip could become costly for some companies.
Hebert also has been reviewing registration mandates within Act 148. He said that before, people didn't have to register a 1 ton truck. But under the law, it would have to be registered.
"We have begun this week to re-look the act and see how to address the issues," said Hebert. "It's got some pretty ambitious goals. There's a lot to this bill. It's not a small impact."
He had expressed to ANR that people may start to leave their garbage roadside if there is an extra charge for recycling.
"For years, we fought against litter. Are we going to give people incentive to throw their garbage roadside?" said Hebert.
He believes the implementation of Act 148 will create a big change in how Vermont deals with solid waste. When asked if it would be easy for municipalities to comply, he said he didn't think it would be insurmountable.
"It's the responsible thing to do for the environment. I think, generationally, it will make a difference and as time goes by, it will be a normal course. It's a big change and people don't like change, good or bad," concluded Hebert.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.