Mar. 20 — Vermont is considering a proposal that would ban recyclable materials from landfills.
If passed, House Bill 485 would immediately prohibit the landfilling of batteries. In July 2015, the ban would grow to include plastic and glass containers, cardboard, paper and other recyclables. Yard waste would be prohibited in 2016. All organic materials would be forbidden in 2020.
So a compactor operator tossing his apple core onto the open face would be breaking the law?
Well, maybe not.
First off, the law, if passed, would not create a landfill police squad with orders to track down and fine residents who throw out egg shells or junk mail. Only haulers dumping truckloads of recyclables at landfills might have to worry.
Second, a law banning plastic bottles from landfills has been on the books in North Carolina since 2009 without much fanfare or backlash. Recycling of plastic bottles has increased 50% in the Tar Heel State since it was passed.
A law without teeth might seem like folly, especially when so many folks ignore laws that do have teeth, like speeding, smoking weed, paying a worker under the table or crossing the street nowhere near a crosswalk.
Yet, Vermont seeks to lead, even if itīs more idealistic than realistic. After all, no one can argue that throwing away a valuable recyclable makes any kind of economic or environmental sense. And a proposal like this, as long as enforcement is limited, is merely the state staking a flag on the side of whatīs right.
Besides, if itīs a law, some people might actually follow it, the same way they wait at a red light in a deserted intersection or click away from a file-sharing website or wait until theyīre 21 to drink a beer.
Thereīs a special motivation that comes with a "law," and it just might keep more valuable commodities from being wasted.