Don't call it garbage

Wednesday April 11, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- If Brattleboro moves ahead with its plan to start a curbside compost pickup program, then it could become the first municipality in the state to support a townwide plan to reduce solid waste through composting.

Windham Solid Waste Management District Executive Director Robert Spencer has been talking with the town and with Triple T Trucking, the company that will haul the compostable materials.

Spencer is looking into the feasibility of starting a compost facility on the grounds of the waste district property on Old Ferry Road.

The town wants to start out slow, with about 150 volunteer households from Brattleboro taking part in the pilot program.

If everything goes well and WSWMD is able to expand the facility to take in the waste from the rest of the town, Spencer says Brattleboro would become a leader in composting food and yard waste.

"No one else is doing this in the region," said Spencer, a solid waste and recycling consultant who has worked all over the world with large-scale facilities. "This is the future of dealing with organic waste and it would be very exciting if we were able to pull it off."

Brattleboro is hoping to start the pilot program in the coming months, and will be seeking volunteers from across town who are willing to test the curbside pickup while the town works out the kinks.

Spencer, meanwhile, is in the preliminary stages of finding out what permits are needed to install the compost facility.

He stressed that more work has to be done with the town and with Triple T before all the parties are ready to enter into the agreement.

More work also has to happen on choosing a system for composting, and then the WSWMD board will have to sign off on the project.

Brattleboro's move toward curbside pickup is happening as the state is trying to encourage more recycling and the reduction of solid waste going into landfills.

The Agency of Natural Resources adopted new composting rules this year to make it easier and safer to establish large scale composting facilities.

And the Legislature is debating a law that would make it mandatory to recycle and compost.

By 2020, organic materials would be banned from landfills if the bill is approved as written.

"This is going to help Brattleboro, and the Windham Solid Waste District, to prepare for the coming mandate," Spencer said. "It is impressive that Brattleboro is so far ahead of all of that."

Across Vermont there are haulers that carry off organic waste from schools and large institutions such as hospitals.

And towns like Brattleboro have small-scale programs that allow residents to dump their food waste at a designated site for composting.

Spencer said technology has advanced to control odor and run off, and the district will eventually have clean compost to sell for home garden use.

There could even be a way to generate electricity by catching the methane from the rotting food, Spencer said.

"It will all come down to money to decide how much we can do with this," he said. "Everyone wants to make this happen and I don't think there will be major impediments."

Selectboard member Dora Bouboulis said the town has work to do in deciding what kind of containers to use and how to keep animals away, and she also said education is going to be crucial to keeping non-compostable material out of the mix.

She attended this year's conference of the Composting Association of Vermont last month to get ideas on the town's new program, and came away from the conference realizing that no one else in the state is doing what Brattleboro is about to try.

She said the pilot period is going to give town officials a good idea if it will be able to start the townwide system, and if the town does move forward a lot of people will be watching to see how Brattleboro does.

"There are going to be some bugs to work out, but this is cutting edge what the town is trying to do," Bouboulis said. "I thought I would get some ideas at the conference, but no one else is doing this. We are way ahead of everyone else."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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