In Vermont, recycling is no longer a suggestion. It’s a requirement resulting from the state’s composting law.

In 2012, the legislature overhauled the state’s solid waste program. In addition to requiring cities to implement Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) variable-rate pricing and pair every public trash can with a recycling container, Act 148 bans an expanding list of materials from landfills.

Step by step, year by year, residents will have to recycle basics like glass, paper, and aluminum foil; then yard debris and wood; and finally in 2020, food scraps.

The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) had already taken many of these steps. In 2014, the district diverted 44% of the 162,737 tons of garbage — curbside recyclables, food scraps, yard waste, and electronics — generated by the county’s 160,000 residents from its landfill.

That means many people were still throwing away a lot of stuff they know, deep down inside, they should recycle. CSWD Marketing Specialist Jonny Finity has a term for this phenomenon: wish-cycling. “People wish it will be recycled, when in reality it won’t,” he says. “We try to educate them on what does and doesn’t belong in recycling containers.”

That education includes spending $13,000 per year on television commercials and turning latex paint dropped off by residents and businesses into a high-quality paint brand called Local Color.

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