Increase in Quantities Results in Higher Bills
The LRSWMD has been hosting Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events for decades. These collections are held as a convenient and cost-effective way for District members to responsibly dispose of this material that is costly to manage correctly. According to the 2018 Vermont Waste Characterization Study, hazardous waste makes up less than 1% of the total waste we create; however, it is the most harmful material in the waste stream if it is not disposed of properly.
As a Solid Waste Management Entity, the State requires that the LRSWMD hold a minimum number of collections each year. We have experienced some variation in recent years: in 2019, we needed to host four but typically the requirement is three events each year; as a result of the pandemic, in 2020 we were only able to host two. There will be one additional collection this year on September 18. The final event of each year is usually quite popular and should add significantly to the 2021 results. The table below shows participation and average cost of these events trending up.
While most of the cost of events is attributed to set up for the contractor’s labor, transportation and safe and responsible management of the materials collected at these events, the amount of material collected has also increased over the years – likely from the increase in the number of participants. We welcome the increase in participation to capture these hazardous materials to protect our ground and surface water resources.
However, this trend has also forced discussions about solutions. While we have regularly received grant money from the State that covers just under half of the cost of hosting these collections, the reality is that this is not a sustainable or affordable way to manage hazardous waste.
Businesses already pay for the waste they dispose of at these events. Is the answer charging our resident members who use these collections, too? Do we increase the cost of other materials to defray the cost of these costly collections? Enter Bill H115, introduced to the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife last legislative session. The house passed this version but it has since stalled due to immediate intervention required in the state house to address the pandemic.
The Vermont Solid Waste Managers Association, a consortium of solid waste districts, alliances and independent towns supports this bill. The premise of this and other EPR programs is to “shift financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the manufacturer and away from the public sector.” Otherwise, these costs are spread out over the entire population through state and local taxes, per capita assessments, and/or user fees at collection events. The concept is sound and there is precedent for such a program with the success of e-waste, paint, and battery collection programs here.
For example, when you buy a gallon of paint, there is a $0.99 fee paid at the counter that covers the return of that paint should you not use all of it or have leftover paint from another project that you finally want to get rid of. Paintcare.org has details and a locator for places that accept paint all year round under this specific EPR program. Items like batteries embed the cost directly into the price to cover their recycling program; Call2Recycle.org is the organization that oversees the very successful battery EPR program in Vermont. To find the nearest collection location for every EPR program hosted in Vermont, visit the Agency of Natural Resources recently updated website.
Stay tuned for how H115 and other solid waste associated bills unfold this legislative session. Policy is one way to get movement away from the landfill but so is individual action. Visit our Resources page for some inspiration.