The Baker-Polito Administration on November 1 announced that new waste ban regulations that promote recycling and re-use, reduce trash disposal, and foster recycling business growth take effect starting November 1. The new regulations will ban the disposal of mattresses and textiles in the trash, as well as decrease food waste from businesses and institutions. Massachusetts currently has a food waste ban on businesses disposing one ton or more per week, and these regulations lower that threshold to a half-ton per week.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) established a ban on disposal of food waste from businesses and institutions disposing of one ton or more per week in 2014, which increased food waste diversion from 100,000 tons per year to more than 300,000 tons per year, while also creating hundreds of new jobs and increasing the gross state product by $77 million. Despite this progress, food waste still represents more than one-fifth of the trash we dispose of. Lowering the threshold from one ton to a half-ton per week aims to continue Massachusetts’ progress in this area. An estimated 4,000 businesses will be subject to the new threshold. Fortunately, Massachusetts businesses are well on their way to compliance as more than 3,500 businesses already participated in a food waste collection program in 2021.
“In order to meet the important goals outlined in the 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, the Baker-Polito Administration has focused on reducing waste disposal, while also increasing recycling, diversion, reuse, and composting measures,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “These regulations and the supporting strategies that are being implemented today will continue our nation-leading efforts and jump-start waste diversion work that is occurring across the Commonwealth.”
MassDEP has supported the food waste ban by providing grants to businesses establishing or expanding capacity to manage food waste, including anaerobic digestion and composting operations. MassDEP also recently announced a new grant offering to invest in expanding the infrastructure for collecting food waste, mattresses, and textiles. Additionally, MassDEP supports business waste reduction, recycling, and composting initiatives through the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program. This program, which is fully funded by MassDEP, is run under contract by the Center for Eco Technology. Through RecyclingWorks, Massachusetts businesses receive free assistance to manage any waste they generate, including the new banned materials.
Textiles represent another important opportunity for Massachusetts to reduce the waste stream and capture valuable resources. Each year, the Commonwealth throws out more than 200,000 tons of textiles in the trash. This includes old clothing, as well as other things like towels, linens, and even bags, belts, and shoes. Fortunately, Massachusetts has an extensive collection infrastructure of both non-profit and for-profit textile recovery organizations that can find a new use for these materials, either through selling or donating for reuse, or recycling into products such as carpet padding, insulation, or wiping rags.
“Recovering textiles is an excellent opportunity for our cities and towns to reduce trash disposal from their residents at the same time as they get paid for the valuable textiles that they recover,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “We are pleased to partner with this burgeoning industry to remove these valuable materials from the waste stream and put them back to work.”
Mattresses are a difficult material to manage at solid waste facilities and take up a large amount of space in landfills. More than 75 precent of mattresses can be effectively separated and recycled, including metal, wood, fabric, and padding. Massachusetts has established a statewide mattress recycling contract that includes five recycling companies that can serve Massachusetts municipalities that establish mattress recycling programs to serve their residents. MassDEP has provided grants to several of those companies, as well as other Massachusetts-based mattress recyclers, to increase the capacity to manage mattresses, as well as to create new job opportunities. Massachusetts generates approximately 600,000 unwanted mattresses per year, about 200,000 of them from residents, with the rest coming from businesses and institutions. MassDEP has provided grants to help establish mattress recycling programs in 137 municipalities.
More information on the waste disposal bans is available on MassDEP’s website.