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Hartford Examines Solid Waste Issue

Hartford — The town of Hartford wants to take a more comprehensive look at how it deals with trash and recyclables as new state mandates governing the disposal of everything from banana peels to plastic bottles are fast approaching.

Hartford officials are forming a solid waste committee to prepare for changes under Act 148, which passed the Legislature last year and is geared toward diverting materials, such as food and yard waste, away from landfills.

“We are trying to make a change here to a system,” said Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Justin Johnson. “When we are done with things, we throw them away like they have no value and a lot of those things do have value. Act 148 will recapture that value.”

The law mandates that recyclable materials such as bottles, cans and newspapers be separated from solid waste and requires waste haulers to offer to collect recyclables in addition to, but separate from, solid waste. The legislation calls for a phased-in approach. Vermont residents will no longer be able to throw recyclables away in their household trash beginning in 2015; yard waste in 2016 and compostable food, such as banana peels, by 2020. By doing so, landfill space will be freed up, materials will be put to better use and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, according to a draft report prepared for the agency and released late last month.

In addition, as early as 2014, large generators of food waste who exceed a threshold amount will have to separate food scraps.

The new law “has the potential to raise materials recovery rates to 60 percent or greater,” the report, which was prepared by DSM Environmental Services Inc., of Windsor, said. But it also said it’s likely Vermonters will have to spend more than they are spending now to reap those high recovery rates and greater environmental benefit.

The study weighed several components to implement the new law, including:

∎ Expanding Vermont’s bottle redemption program to cover deposits on all beverage containers instead of just on carbonated and malt beverages.

∎ Keeping the so-called “bottle bill” or eliminating it altogether.

∎ Going to single-stream recycling, which combines all recyclable materials and containers and separates them out with a sorting machine.

Hartford Selectwoman Bethany Fleishman said the Selectboard is forming the solid waste committee as a proactive step to prepare for changes.

“Act 148 passed and to me that’s a sign that people are starting to think differently,” Fleishman said. “People are being more savvy about trash these days. Recycling is very much the norm, but people are now thinking about food waste as something that should be separated from the general waste stream.”

The seven-member committee will be comprised of Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg, Public Works Director Rich Menge, two Selectboard members yet to be named and three Hartford residents.

The committee will be tasked with making recommendations to the Selectboard by August 2014 on the town’s recycling program, the Hartford transfer station and “the role Hartford should play in a potential regional municipal solid waste network,” a news release announcing the formation of the committee said.

Interested Hartford residents have until Friday to apply.

Fleishman said the current system for solid waste disposal in Hartford is “a little piecemeal.”

In order to dispose of trash, residents either have to take their rubbish to the transfer station on Route 5, where they pay a fee, or hire a private waste hauler. As far as recyclables go, Northeast Waste Services, of White River Junction, conducts curbside recycling in a taxpayer-funded program. Residents can also dispose of their recyclables at the transfer station.

As stated, Act 148 calls for private waste haulers to remove and dispose of recyclable material, as well as household trash.

Rieseberg said that could increase costs for taxpayers.

“You can’t mandate a private sector hauler that he will do work for free,” Rieseberg said. “The hauler could say, ‘I won’t (charge) anything to pick up recycling,’ but picking up your regular trash just went up by 50 percent.”

Although he said the Act 148 legislation has some kinks, Rieseberg said, “I think it is a desirable and necessary goal.”

In order to cut costs borne by individual towns, Rieseberg said, Hartford should not only work cooperatively with the private sector, but also with neighboring communities.

“Just creating a district doesn’t make all your problems go away,” he said of having surrounding towns create a waste management district. He suggested each participating town dispose of one type of waste.

“Divvying these up (means) you can get a clean and efficient waste disposal at a volume that is cost effective to deal with,” he said. In the early 1990s, the town was part of the Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District, but is no longer, Rieseberg said.

Hartford Recycling and Transfer Center waste is taken to different locations depending on the type of material. For example, household trash is compacted at the transfer center and then taken to the Lebanon landfill for disposal, Rieseberg said.

“My hope is that the committee will help facilitate some of the cooperative ventures with other Upper Valley communities,” Rieseberg said. “Waste disposal is a regional issue.”

Editor’s note: The draft ANR report on the impact of Act 148 can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/n8xwvzo . The state of Vermont is seeking public comments through the end of August on the report, and a public hearing will be held on Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m. in Montpelier. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.