Recycled Products and Waste Management in Vermont

Subject: Environment
Pages: 7
Words: 1944
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College

Globally, increased recycling of waste products has been immensely influenced by significant trends, including energy, climate change, natural resource depletion, rising commodity prices, information revolution, and increased corporate and governmental sustainability. Vermont has a solid waste plan that focuses on waste reduction strategies for materials such as sludges, household hazardous wastes, organics, recyclables, construction, and demolition debris (Rogoff, 2013). Waste management programs are entitled to oversee the usage, treatment, and handling of dangerous solid wastes by conducting emergency responses for hazardous leakages and issuing permits for regulating underground storage and cleaning up waste products. Management of Vermont waste materials prioritizes closed-loop recycling and reuse of waste products to reduce the maximum possible volume remaining for disposal and processing. Some policies ban some materials and items from being disposed of in the trash, requiring composting, recycling, and other safe waste management options (Mugica, 2017). In Vermont, since every material has its management means, there is no single recycling pathway. To ensure better waste management, Vermont state has a recycling and disposal plan for waste materials and strict policies on recyclable materials.

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Recycled products in Vermont are sold to processors after sorting and separated by type. Vermont has blue-bin recycling that includes office papers, jugs, plastic and glass bottles, cardboards, tubs, and aluminum and steel cans that go to the materials recovery facility (MRF). There are two large MRFs in Williston and Rutland with the capacity to handle over seventy percent of recyclables (‘‘What happens to Vermont’s recycling?’’ 2020). Sorting and separation of materials by type is done at MRF by human workers and machines, after which the sorted materials are compressed into bales for sale to processors. Glasses are sometimes separated and grounded to a fine sand-like texture in fiberglass insulation and are additive to concrete products. However, contaminated recyclables and trash products, which form nearly 10% of blue-bin materials, are sent to landfills. Food scraps, leaves, yards, and clean wood debris are transferred to stations that convert them to fuel for use.

Recyclable materials which leave MRFs such as cardboard goes to the mills in Canada and New York and becomes cardboard medium and boxes. Mixed paper materials go to the West Virginia facility and become pulp and cardboard. At the same time, aluminum is taken to Alabama to be processed into beer and soda cans (‘‘Waste management and prevention division,’’ n.d.). Tins are brought to Canada to be processed into electronics and metal parts for cars. On the other hand, PET plastic is taken to U.S. and Canada to be processed into carpeting, fleeces, and plastic bottle. HDPE plastic goes to Pennsylvania and Alabama to produce plastic bottles and drainage piping for road construction. Glasses from Williston MRF are blended into road project material in Colchester, while those glass from Rutland MRF goes to Canada to be processed into fiberglass.

Vermont has sixteen solid waste districts and a handful of standalone towns that do recycling. Some of the waste materials are managed by these districts, selling directly into the market like what is seen in the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District. According to Vermont state, approximately 64 percent of Vermont residents’ and businesses’ recycled products go to the most significant processing plants (Pearl, 2021). Vermont local recycling is seen among renewable startups who carry out sustainability work, such as making products from recycled glasses for insulation purposes (Sasikumar & Krishna, 2009). Recycled glasses have had immense advantages when used for creating green buildings such that it is flame resistant and it is solid at the same price as petroleum-based insulations.

Recycled yard debris and leaf are taken to composting facilities and ground into mulch. Clean and natural woods are repurposed and burned in power and heating plants. Food scraps are taken to composting facilities, including anaerobic digesters and organics transfer stations, to produce methane harnessed to generate electricity. Animals such as pigs and chickens are also fed food scraps, and others are hauled to farms as fertilizer. Vermont has a food bank and a network of food shelves where it receives quality edible food from donors to feed its population (Mugica, 2017). Across Vermont state, food scraps are put in existing compost facilities where carbon sources are added for the development of ideal environmental microorganisms. Vermont contributes around 100,000 tons of recyclable materials to a privately owned company like Casella Waste System that does the recycling process (‘‘What happens to Vermont’s recycling?’’ 2020). These materials are handled domestically by staying either in Canada or United States. China was the highest bidder of waste materials, and their decline to buy impacted management programs in Vermont state caused an indirect effect on the global market.

The recycled products in Vermont state, including bottles, cans, batteries, paint, electronics, mercury products, plastic bags, and tires, are repurposed. Vermont has a bottle bill that covers bottles. Those beverages whose bottles are covered under this bill are permitted to be returned at redemption retailers and centers (”What happens to Vermont’s recycling?” 2020). Beverage manufacturers recycle and collect empty redeemable containers, chiefly by selling them to processors. The existing redemption system is used for collecting numerous materials such as glass cans, aluminum, plastic, and bottles. During collection, these materials are sorted according to types which makes the redemption system less contaminated than the blue-bin recycling method. As a result, these materials get higher uses and are regarded as valuable. Old cell phones are collected and resold after refurbishing; when in poor condition, these materials are recycled. Batteries contain different metals including lithium, cobalt, iron, and zinc. Recycled batteries are sorted according to their types and metals haul out for use to manufacture new batteries and act as an additive for developing other products.

High-quality latex and leftover paint taken to the collection site are recycled locally and nationally in Vermont and then blended with other flammable materials before being used as a fuel blend by numerous industries. Vermont has multiple drop-off points across its state that collect electronics for recycling, such as computer accessories, printers, monitors, computers, and televisions. Recycled electronics are dismantled and components resold or sent to downstream processors depending on the value and nature of the hazard of the materials used to make them (‘‘Waste management and prevention division,’’ n.d.). Electronics contain valuable metals such as mercury, aluminum, steel, lead, and gold that can be used for other purposes. In Vermont, light bulbs, fluorescent thermometers, and thermostats mostly contain mercury products and are banned from being sold due to the dangerous effect of mercury on people’s health. Before recycling, mercury-containing products are processed to separate their constituent parts, including mercury, metals, and glass. Mercury is used to produce new products, and Vermont sends its recycled mercury products to the U.S. mercury processing facilities. Tires recycled products are used as fuel for industries and in road construction projects as substrate.

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Another way Vermont ensures proper waste management is by disposing of recycled products at landfills. Some of the recycled products disposed of at landfills include household hazardous waste and trash. Household hazardous waste is collected at specific facilities and events across Vermont state. These materials pose risk to humans and the environment; therefore, they require a proper method of storage and disposal. Some of the hazardous materials that exist in Vermont state are chemicals and oil-based products (‘‘Waste management and prevention division,’’ n.d.). Most recycled oil-based products are mixed and used as industrial fuel, while chemical products undergo treatment and incineration before disposing of at out-of-state dangerous leftover landfills. Large recycled trash is taken to the New England Waste Services Vermont landfill in Coventry and some are put in incinerators and landfills in other regions like New Hampshire.

Furthermore, Vermont landfills were unlined over the past years, comprising large holes in the ground filled with trash. However, presently, landfills have been regulated, designed, and engineered highly to allow the depositing of trash in one active area at a time. Upon filing a landfill section, the materials are capped with soil and plastic liners. All landfills are compacted with new waste materials and trash appropriately covered to avoid blowing up or attracting animals. Before disposing of special wastes like those from the cleanup of contaminated soil and industry, they are examined and pre-approved to ensure no hazardous wastes are disposed of in Vermont landfills (‘‘What happens to Vermont’s recycling?’’ 2020). According to state law, active landfills are double-lined to allow easy monitoring and any leachate processed and collected at wastewater treatment facilities. Capped portions of landfills containing organic materials are fitted with a vacuum piping system to collect methane gas combusted to create electricity.

Recycling waste products is depicted as keeping the environment clean, safer for humans to live in, and a method for managing waste materials. However, economics plays a crucial role in recycling as the process involves both local and international states bounded by waste management laws. As depicted in 2015, during the landfill ban in Vermont, the United States sold millions of tons of recycling to China with markets of plastic and paper doing well (‘‘Waste management and prevention division,’’ n.d.). At the time, haulers in Vermont were paid $87.92 per ton, and when the market was closed, these haulers had to pay almost $57 to dispose of their collected paper. The consumers get the burden of these costs as it is passed to them in need of recycling pick-up services. Vermont has experienced most recyclable materials not ending up in a landfill. This has been contributed by the fact that recycling costs after MRF’s necessary recyclable materials go to the mills or end sites that assist in transforming recycling them into new materials.

Some industries dispose of waste in water bodies to evade recycling charges, which causes pollution to the environment. The department of environmental conservation of Vermont hires companies to perform waste composition studies every five years that entail random inspection of trash bags across the state (‘‘What happens to Vermont’s recycling?’’ 2020). Inspection duration is long, and due to economic costs associated with recycling; individuals are likely to fail to adhere to the state laws about waste management. Failure to dispose of recycling products in landfills and other appropriate disposable means results in an unhealthy environment and poor living standards. The lack of penalties for recycling violations by businesses and residents regarding disposable materials also aggravates poor management of recycled products that can be found clustered in unwanted areas. There is a closer relationship between waste disposal and economic activity such that when the economy is good, people consume a lot leading to an increase in waste disposal.

In conclusion, as seen above, Vermont’s recycled products are disposed of in landfills or repurposed. Companies buy recyclable products from blue-bin recycling and transform the materials into essential products once they leave the MRFs. Recycling in Vermont is depicted to be done across sixteen solid waste districts which sell the materials directly into the market. Compositing facilities transform recycled yard leaves and debris into mulching materials for agricultural crop production and soil conservation. Heating and power plants have been described to use recycled natural and clean woods while repurposing is done on products like electronics, plastic bags, bottles, and tires. Most recycled materials like trash are disposed of in landfills with proper system design for monitoring and control. However, it is depicted that the waste management program of Vermont has a good program for disposing of hazardous waste. Economic costs play prime roles in recycling waste materials in Vermont as it affects consumers’ production of waste products. Failure to enact penalties on individuals who violate recycling waste materials policies within Vermont has been described as resulting in environmental degradation and increased contamination of recyclable wastes.

Reference

Mugica, Y. (2017). Vermont’s universal recycling law. Web.

Pearl, R. H. (2021). Sustainable waste management. Web.

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Rogoff, M. J. (2013). Solid waste recycling and processing: Planning solid waste recycling facilities and programs. Elsevier.

Sasikumar, K., & Krishna, S. G. (2009). Solid waste management. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.

Waste management and prevention division. (n.d.). Welcome to DEC | Department of Environmental Conservation. Web.

What happens to Vermont’s recycling? (2020). Vermont Public Radio. Web.