Massachusetts Finalizes Organics Disposal Ban
By: Bobby Elliott

Massachusetts has put the finishing touches on a commercial organics disposal ban set to go into effect Oct. 1.

According to Ed Coletta of the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), organics currently make up 25 percent of Massachusetts' current municipal waste stream. "We thought this was an area to take a closer look at," Coletta, who heads the DEP's public affairs office, told Resource Recycling. "Landfill space is very much disappearing in Massachusetts … and one of the best ways to address that [is] to address food and organics waste."

The disposal ban will require large generators of organic waste, such as restaurants and grocery stores, to sign up for separate organics collection services, sending their food waste for either composting or anaerobic digestion (AD). The DEP estimates 1,700 establishments will be affected by the Oct. 1 ban. Grants totaling $1 million will be administered to support and encourage the growth of AD sites in the state and additional support will be provided, at no cost, from the DEP's RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts initiative.

With the ban in place, Coletta said, the state would like to push annual diversion of organics to 450,000 tons, a significant rise from its current level of 100,000 tons.

"We have eight months to work with the regulated community to make sure there's a nice, smooth transition," Coletta said, adding the largest generators of organics waste could stand to save almost $20,000 per year. According to the DEP, tip fees for disposing trash come in at $70 per ton, while separated organics collection costs $50 per ton.

At first, the state expects composting facilities to handle the majority of the diverted material, while AD sites, which convert organics into fuel, will be a major focus of investment in the coming years. Coletta estimated there were eight AD sites in operation while more than 200 composting facilities exist within the state.

Private sector players are showing growing interest in investing in AD, Coletta added, and the state is currently working on developing an AD program at a state prison and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Commercial organics is the 15th material the state has moved to divert or restrict from landfills since 1990. Massachusetts is aiming to reduce its municipal waste stream by 30 percent by 2020, while a 2050 goal calls for reducing the municipal waste stream by an ambitious 80 percent.

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