Vermont have just put a ban on throwing your food waste, here’s why it matters.

When we talk about waste and recycling, our personal commitment to the environment and tackling the critical issue of climate change, the image it conjures is one of mountains of plastic; washing tin cans or storing piles of paper and cardboard. Bet you didn’t think about egg shells or grass cuttings, did you?

We have transformed our attitudes to recycling, we have started our collective journeys toward zero waste, but still so many of the things humankind need do to combat the climate crisis remain unsolved. Which is why the state of Vermont’s recent ban on trashing food scraps matters.

A third of all global greenhouse emissions come from agriculture, with 30% of the food we produce wasted; some 1.8 billion tonnes a year. If we stopped wasting food altogether, we could eliminate 8% of our total emissions. Naturally, individuals can’t except all of the blame, but if you think slinging your biodegradable food waste in the rubbish is karma-free, think again. If it was once alive—part of an animal or plant—then it doesn’t belong in a landfill.

Trapped in a landfill, food waste decomposes slowly, producing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. And that negative impact on the environment is at a cost of a positive one; the waste’s valuable nutrients can be used in gardens, farms, and landscaping. Forming simple habits can limit the potential damage of one consequence, and bolster the positive impact of another. Beginning 1 July, 2020, the northeastern state’s mandatory composting programme forces an important issue that so many of us overlook.

Offering practical guides on composting at home, or safely storing before being taken to compost facilities, the state admit that they won’t be rummaging through your waste to present you with fines, rather pushing heavily on the side of voluntary compliance in a state whose residents already take environmentalism seriously indeed. An area known for its natural beauty, 72% of Vermont residents were already composting at home or feeding their food scraps to livestock, according to a study from the University of Vermont.

As we come together to do our collective bit in the battle against climate change, it’s important we remember the unseen effects on global warming. Throwing a chicken carcass or spent coffee grounds in the rubbish may seem the most innocent of actions, but its impact on the environment for decades, which is why more councils and governments should look to follow in Vermont’s pioneering footsteps. Bravo.

By James Davidson