Citizens Gather to Block Williston Landfill

By Colin Ryan
Observer correspondent

Members of Vermont Organized Communities Against Landfills (VOCAL), and concerned citizens held a news conference in Waterfront Park on Tuesday to express their concerns with a proposed regional landfill in Williston. The group called for the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) to adopt a zero-waste program, as well as increase recycling and composting efforts, instead of building a 66-acre landfill.

The event was coordinated by VOCAL, a nonprofit organization formed by a group of residents who oppose the Williston landfill proposal; and the Boston-based Greencorps, whose members offer field support in order to gain the skills and strategies of grassroots environmental organizing.

“Our actions, and the effects of those actions continue on for decades, if not centuries, after our departure,” said VOCAL president Steve Casale. “We call on the members of the Board of Directors of Chittenden Solid Waste District, the towns and cities that comprise Chittenden County, the State Agency of Natural Resources, and each and every citizen of this state to take the appropriate actions.”

Casale outlined the actions as follows: to abandon the plans for the landfill, to pursue a Zero-Waste Goal (a system which keeps the raw materials that make up our products in use and out of landfills and incinerators), and to expand recycling efforts in Chittenden County to include plastics and organic composting.

Three speakers, as well as students and community members holding signs, pointed out various ways in which they felt the landfill solution would not be a solution at all.

“Based on the state’s own study, over 60 percent of residential waste alone is plastic, metal, and paper that can be recycled, or food scraps can be composted,” said Jessica Edgerly, a community organizer with Toxics Action Center. “Currently, the majority of the state’s waste is burned or buried, polluting our environment and threatening our health. Products largely follow a one-way track from manufacturer to store shelf to homes and business, and finally dead ending in our state’s dumps. We are perpetually losing resources and gaining trash. Dumps are only a temporary solution, a makeshift band-aid, to a much greater problem.”

Edgerly urged the county to move toward a zero-waste model, citing the current involvement of Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, which is building a comprehensive organics program and working to eliminate food scraps from the waste stream.

“Landfills are a business and they need raw materials to run,” explained Casale. “The CSWD will strive to maintain a waste stream to keep the business running. Also, CSWD has stated that trucking and emission of diesel have been one of the chief drivers in looking for local landfill option. Yet there are things we can do today to reduce diesel emissions, such as putting our garbage on one side of street instead of two.”

The concluding speaker was State Sen. Ginny Lyons, D- Williston, who is already involved on a state level in waste reduction. Lyons referred to her work on an E-waste bill, “to recycle computer technology we so easily buy in stores and so easily discard.”

“We can see a future with zero-waste, but not now. This is an evolutionary process, and right now we’re raising awareness about the size and risks of this landfill. I think the CSWD is very open to what is best for the future.”

Lyons also offered advice to citizens concerned by the landfill plan. “Do what you can to increase the visibility of this issue. Go to your Selectboard meeting, and during the public comment time, ask the board for their thoughts on zero waste. And always reduce, recycle, and reuse!”