Vermont is known for its breathtaking scenery and community environmental efforts to keep the state clean and litter free. Reduce, reuse, and recycle have been constantly reinforced, but some residents may be littering unintentionally, thus negatively impacting the environment around them.

A culture surrounded by the care of nature means a persistent effort to reduce and reuse. This keeps materials in use longer, reduces greenhouse gasses, and is financially helpful. One of the main issues, however, is that in some circumstances, recycling has led to an issue of littering. Free piles of items that can include furniture can often be seen on the sides of roads, and while they can help promote reusability, issues arise when items are left behind and no one claims them. Instead, the items are left out with no one taking responsibility for removing them, thus becoming litter.

Josh Kelly, the Solid Waste Program Manager for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, says when litter is not properly cleaned up and is visible, residents are more likely to reciprocate that behavior and add litter to the already discarded matter.

“People tend to follow the same behavior as others, so when you see somewhere that has litter people are more likely to add to it.”

Kelly spoke on the importance of the state-wide annual event known as Green Up Vermont, whose mission is to keep Vermont beautiful and free of litter. The day raises awareness about the economical and visual benefits of a litter-free environment year round. This year, 497 tons of littered trash were collected and the event saw over 22,000 volunteers statewide. The most recent Green Up Day successfully cleaned up 20% more than in May 2021.

Kate Alberghini, the executive director of Green Up Vermont, tells us how Green Up Vermont is more than just the annual Green Up Day. “Green Up Vermont is year-round. We are putting more funding into school systems and have supplied 33 water bottle filling stations to promote waste reduction.”

This non-profit private organization also works to educate the public about what happens to their trash, and how it can lead to litter if not disposed of properly.

Certain forms of littering are unintentional, but Kelly brought up a historic issue of illegal dumping. This often occurs in rural parts of Vermont and is when people use nature as a dump for their household items, furniture, mattresses, and more. This can threaten all aspects of the environment ranging from the waterways to public health. Animals are put at risk and the toxins can contaminate water supplies.

Kelly also stressed the importance of using local resources for recycling such as Resource and Goodwill, but make sure items meet the guidelines.

The Vermont Department of Conservation offers a solid waste and recycling program which allows for proper disposal of many items that can be toxic to the environment. Hazardous items such as batteries are banned from local landfills. They pose a fire and toxicity hazard and should never be taken to Goodwill or any reuse store. Instead, bring paint, mercury lightbulbs, and other potential toxic items to a free collection location. With questions about what items quality as hazardous, visit or call (802) 828-1138.