Food waste is one of the largest reported materials found in the trash within Vermont, according to the Agency of Natural Resources. Now following a law passed to mitigate food waste, a new University of Vermont study found that many Vermonters are in favor of keeping food out of landfills, but not without some challenges.

In 2012, Vermont passed the Universal Recycling Law, which was unanimously passed by the legislature. It requires certain items to be recycled properly, but also has rules on keeping food scraps out of the trash. This brought about an emphasis on composting, and not wasting food, according to the state’s Solid Waste Program Manager.

The Universal Recycling Law has existed in Vermont for 10 years now, but how does it impact residents and food businesses all together? The UVM Gund Institute released new study findings focused on what people think about the laws, and how they changed specific behaviors.

“Food businesses are reporting almost sending no scraps to landfill. They’re almost completely finding innovative ways to divert their food scraps, which is really exciting to see,” says Dr. Emily Belarmino, an assistant professor with UVM. “We’ve also seen an increase by 48% in the amount that residents across the state of Vermont are diverting from landfill,” she adds.

The study found that Vermont’s food waste laws are popular, but some big issues still remain. While 85% of Vermont residents were found to be engaging in some degree of composting, “a number of them did say that they felt that composting was hard or very hard,” Dr. Belarmino notes.

Solid Waste Program Manager Josh Kelly says Vermont offers multiple resources to help households compost. “Those inevitable food scraps you can compost at home, but for many people that’s not doable, maybe if you live in an apartment, you don’t have the space,” Kelly says. “We encourage the other options which are drop-off composting, just about every transfer station in the state collects food waste, second is hiring a food scrap hauler, and there’s over 40 of those in the state right now,” he adds.

He also encourages people to only buy the food they know they’re going to eat to decrease waste. The study also notes an area of improvement, as state facilities do not currently accept many biodegradable materials. “The compostable products and some packaging have been found to contain PFAS chemicals in the past, you know they’re made to resist degradation because they don’t want it melting when your food goes in it,” he says.

Kelly also encourages people to bring their own cups and to use reusable products, when possible, to mitigate paper and plastic ware ending up in landfills. The study also found that Vermont is not yet meeting the state’s goal of recycling and composting half of its total waste, but Kelly notes a national goal of reducing food waste by 50% by the year 2030.