This year, for the first time in its 38-year history, there will be a full-on recycling effort at the popular Northfield Labor Day Weekend.
It’s a voluntary effort on the part of event organizers, but next year recycling will be mandatory at this and other public events across the state.
The Northfield recycling effort, which includes composting food waste, is being spearheaded by students at the middle school with the help of volunteers from a local church and the Mad River Resource Management Alliance.
School counselor Jerry Cassels says they’ve devised a plan that should dramatically reduce the amount of trash hauled off to the landfill.
“We actually gave them the concept of yes, we’d recycle, and we’d compost; a sorting process that we feel can reduce the solid waste of the event by 50 percent,” he says.
Cassels says he hopes other schools will take a cue from Northfield and get involved in events in their own communities.
Their help will probably be welcome, because beginning July 1, 2015 recycling will be mandatory at all indoor and outdoor events in public spaces, like Labor Day celebrations, Fourth of July parades, fairs, many farmers markets and numerous other activities.
Act 148, Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, will require a recycling container wherever there’s a trash can in public buildings and outdoor areas.
It’s going to take some adjustment on the part of communities and citizens, with a lot of involvement from local solid waste districts.
In Chittenden County recycling has been mandatory since 1993, but even there effective recycling at events is hit or miss.
“As far as events go, it’s all over the map,” says Michele Morris, the outreach coordinator for the Chittenden Solid Waste District.
Morris says there’s been great success getting homes and businesses to recycle, and now there’s increasing attention on public events.
It’s not just about recycling. The ideal is to minimize waste, including recyclable items through reduction and reuse. Morris points to the Vermont Brewers Festival on the Burlington waterfront as a prime example.
“Instead of giving people cups to sample everything, you get a reusable glass,” she explains. “And they provide water trucks and water stations instead of bottled water. So that event really produces very little waste.”
Morris says on the other end of the spectrum are events that produce a wide variety of trash and waste. Unless organizers, vendors and the public make sure everything is separated properly, items become too contaminated to recycle at all.
“They may put out recycling bins thinking that’s adequate, but when you’re generating so many different kinds of things and you’re not providing adequate education for the visitors, you can’t capture it for real recycling,” says Morris.
In instituting the provision of Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law next summer, state officials hope to move the long stuck recycling needle.
For at least 10 years the percentage of solid waste diverted for recycling has hovered at about 35 percent.
Cathy Jamieson, who manages Vermont’s Hazardous Waste Program says the hope is that the new recycling measures will up that to 50 percent. Jamieson says the mandatory public recycling extends far beyond popular summer events.
“Events would be part of that, but its only portion of it,” says Jamieson. “[It means] having the structures in place so that in our buildings, in our parks and on our streets, wherever we have a trash can, we can also have the same chance to put the recyclable container or item in the recycling bin.”
Jamieson says the idea is to make recycling in public places as convenient and second nature as it is already is at home for many Vermonters.