BOSTON—With the public comment period closing on August 23, only a few steps remain for the approval of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) proposed commercial food waste ban set to take effect by July 1, 2014. According to Greg Cooper, division director of Business Compliance for MassDEP’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, an initial review of the public comments showed little opposition to the ban. “My hope is that we can move the package fairly quickly and stay on track with our intended schedule of implementation,” Cooper says.
The commercial food waste ban initially will impact hotels in Massachusetts that generate at least one ton of organic waste per week. They will be required to donate or re-purpose useable food. Any remaining food waste will be required to be shipped to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility, a composting operation or an animal-feed operation.
“Diverting food waste to AD facilities creates value by reducing the waste stream, tapping into the energy within food wastes, reducing greenhouse gases, and producing a byproduct that can be resold as fertilizer or animal bedding,” said MassDEP commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.
Food waste and organics make up 20 to 25 percent of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators in Massachusetts. The proposed food waste ban would help the Commonwealth reach its goals to reduce the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
RecyclingWorks Program Available
Hoteliers throughout the state who need assistance preparing for the ban can turn to the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) for assistance. CET runs RecyclingWorks, a program that is funded by MassDEP and delivered under contract by CET.
“There are a suite of services available through RecyclingWorks,” says Lorenzo Macaluso, director of Green Business Services for CET.
Through the RecyclingWorks website, Massachusetts hoteliers can identify recyclers and composters. There is also information available on food waste reduction, donation, organic waste processing, and WasteWise. WasteWise is a voluntary program—sponsored nationally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in Massachusetts by MassDEP—designed to help private and public organizations work toward reductions in solid waste and select non-hazardous industrial wastes. Through the RecyclingWorks hotline, hoteliers can receive information applicable to an individual property. One can also access a case study on a Hilton Garden Inn property.
Workshop in Development
CET can provide on-site technical assistance at no cost, help management calculate the cost of recycling and composting, and provide staff training and education, customized signage and recognition. CET is in the process of developing a workshop for commercial establishments interested in learning more about the waste ban and how to prepare for it.
MassDEP’s Cooper says there are numerous ways hoteliers can reduce food waste—from the point of purchasing to the point of disposal.
“We have worked with a number of hotels already and some hotels already have programs,” Cooper says.
To ensure that there will be sufficient facilities in Massachusetts to handle the waste resulting from the ban, MassDEP is working with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to conduct feasibility studies to build AD facilities on state-owned land.
AD facilities have become more popular in Massachusetts in recent years at facilities such as dairy farms, municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Over the past year, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has awarded 18 grants worth $2.3 million to study, design and construct AD and other organics-to-energy facilities across the Commonwealth.
Jobs Created in Clean Energy Sector
“Massachusetts companies are again leading the way in the deployment of this exciting technology, which, in addition to producing environmental benefits, will create quality jobs in the already-booming clean energy sector,” said MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton.
This Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) funding comes from the 2010 and 2011 Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) Spending Plan. ACPs are paid by electric retail suppliers if they have insufficient Renewable Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable Portfolio Standard programs. DOER establishes the plan for use of these funds to support clean energy development in the Commonwealth.
AD is a process that puts food and yard wastes, and other organics, into an enclosed chamber with no oxygen. Microbes inside the chamber break down the organics and produce a biogas that can produce electricity and heat. The electricity and heat is used in place of fossil fuels, reducing emissions. For more information about AD, visit MassDEP’s website.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.