According to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, about 60,000 tons of food scraps are added to landfills every year. That’s a lot of waste!
Those directly involved in Vermont food systems, like Vermont Technical College, want to close the loop between agricultural output and waste.
Act 148 is a Vermont recycling law that states, among other things, that all organic food waste will be banned from landfills beginning in 2020. Long before the legislature passed Act 148, Vermont Tech students and staff began working on a solution to divert food scraps from landfills and return them to the food system as compost and energy.
You may be familiar with Big Bertha, our anaerobic digester. The Big Bertha project was driven by the goal of using food residuals to produce renewable energy and prove that diversion of organics from landfills was a worthy goal for Vermont.
Mary O’Leary is the chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology Department says, “Everyone is really catching up with Act 148.” One of the goals of the Anaerobic Digester project was to scale intake and output capabilities to meet the demands of the state. Of course, not every farmer has the money for their own Big Bertha. Mary suggests that regionally based facilities, like the plant Vermont Tech has, would be more feasible than individual farmers and businesses trying to manage a project of this size on their own.
Vermont Tech is a pioneer of the local food system. Our Agriculture students actually grow food on our farm, practice processing and distribution through our dining hall and community, while our Renewable Energy and Engineering Technology students learn to manage food waste and farm by-product with Big Bertha. We hope our model can be applied to other institutions and communities to create a more sustainable food system for everyone.
Farmers and landowners across the state are doing their part to decrease food waste. To learn more about creating a sustainable food system, and how you can get involved watch this Local Motive segment on Waste from Vermont PBS and Skinny Pancake.
Image of the first scene of PBS’s Local Motive documentary’s Waste episode showing compost storage on a fall day.