Monday, May 27, 2013

DEP to Add More Inspectors to Enforce Waste Bans

Waste audits have shown that 90% of what goes into commercial and residential trash bags could be reused, recycled or composted. Much of that discarded material is banned from disposal statewide by state law and MassDEP regulations, introduced in 1990. But weak compliance guidelines and little enforcement allowed these materials to be burned or buried, adding to ground, air and water pollution.

Reducing waste helps save resources and energy, safeguards public health by reducing pollution and supports green jobs. Reuse and recycling conserve 3 to 5 times more energy than incineration, including combustion in waste-to-energy systems because of the energy saved by using recycled feedstock for manufacturing instead of harvesting virgin resources.

Three additional inspectors on the job as of summer 2013 means staff to back up the bans through more inspections and stronger enforcement. Thank you for your part in turning a request into a resource saving reality!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Patrick Administration Veers Away from Zero Waste Path

Press Release

Despite receiving nearly 14,000 messages urging Governor Patrick to retain a 23-year old moratorium on new trash incinerators, the Administration today announced that the Commonwealth is open to incineration developers. MassDEP received only 11 comments in favor of allowing gasification technologies, a form of incineration.

Burn facilities recover only a small amount of energy from garbage while burning resources that could be recycled or composted, creating new businesses and jobs.

While the Administration claims that lifting the moratorium encourages improvements in incineration, Clean Water Action’s Solid Waste Director, Lynne Pledger said, “Massachusetts should foster innovation that leads us to a sustainable future¬new technologies for reuse, repair, and remanufacturing¬not for destroying resources. This decision means jobs going up in smoke.”

The decision to allow certain gasification came with the release of the Solid Waste Master Plan, 2010-2020.

Gasification (staged incineration) has a record of toxic emissions and economic and operational failures in this country and worldwide. Also these facilities compete with recycling plastic, paper, and cardboard.

The Administration has not named any facility or report on which the decision was based to allow this experimental technology in Massachusetts.

On December 11, 2009 the Administration announced a policy shift toward waste reduction and said the Solid Waste Master Plan, 2010-2020 would retain the moratorium and increase recycling.

While the Administration notes that the state is running out of landfill space, it is also filling up with recyclable material such as paper, bottles, and cans, which are banned from disposal. Last fall MassDEP acknowledged that they have only issued three penalties for waste ban violations in the last three years.


The Massachusetts Sierra Club is a member of the Don't Waste Massachusetts coalition which issued the following statement:

"Don’t Waste Massachusetts, a statewide alliance of membership organizations, is deeply disappointed by Governor Patrick’s decision to lift the 23-year-old moratorium on new incinerators in Massachusetts as part of the 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan just released. Reversing the policy against new incinerators is a huge mistake and a betrayal of the public’s expressed wishes.

#1: Facilities that burn waste take recyclable and compostable materials and turn them into toxic by-products that then must be landfilled. In addition to being the most expensive way to generate energy, incineration is dirty and inefficient. Gasification (staged incineration) has a record of failure in this country and worldwide. Also these facilities compete with recycling plastic, paper, and cardboard.

#2: In hundreds of hours of testimony at public hearings, and thousands of postcards and emails in which the public resoundingly called for waste reduction, and in almost 14,000 comments recently sent to MassDEP opposing a change in the moratorium¬versus 11 in favor¬the public has made it resoundingly clear that we don’t want more burning in Massachusetts.

#3: The Administration’s decision to reverse its policy says to the waste industry and the nation: Massachusetts has veered off the Path to Zero Waste (the name for the draft Solid Waste Master Plan) and is open for burning.

Don’t Waste Massachusetts alliance will continue to provide the facts about gasification and advocate for a Zero Waste state policy that embraces and implements “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sierra Club Comments on Proposed Incineration Expansion

February 28, 2013

John Fischer
MassDEP Branch Chief, Waste and Toxics Planning
One Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108

Dear Mr. Fischer:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed modification of the 22-year-old moratorium on additional combustion capacity in Massachusetts to allow so-called “new technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis.” We strongly oppose any modification in the moratorium in order to allow any combustion technology of municipal solid waste (MSW). The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the country. With over a forty-year history in this state, the Massachusetts Sierra Club represents about 22,000 members throughout the state and nearly one million nationwide. We fight for clean air, clean water, the preservation of the Commonwealth’s most precious natural spaces, and healthy, vibrant communities.

The waste policy of the Sierra Club is Zero Waste. In keeping with the Club’s Zero Waste policy, the Chapter has taken a position to oppose gasification of MSW. We participated in the public process that DEP provided in 2008 and 2009 during the Department’s waste policy review prior to the drafting of the Solid Waste Master Plan. We oppose gasification and other combustion technologies for MSW primarily because of the waste of resources in the trash and because of the inevitable pollution of air, land, and water from the operation of these facilities, but there are additional reasons for our opposition that have to do with the larger production-disposal cycle.

Since 2009, the EPA has been utilizing “systems-based accounting” of GHG emissions. Whereas prior accounting for waste was limited to emissions from landfills and incinerators, the new system also accounts for the emissions generated to replace the products and packaging that we discard, much of which is designed for obsolescence or one-time use. Similarly, food production, transport, and disposal in landfills and incinerators also drive climate change, and almost half of the food supply in the United States is wasted.1 EPA reports, “In total, the goods we create, transport, and dispose of and the food we produce, and process, transport, and dispose of are estimated to account for approximately 42% of U.S. GHG emissions.”2

The Sierra Club has reviewed the so-called “new technologies” that are being supported by waste disposal industries. We believe that our state’s goals should incorporate the concept of

“reduce, reuse, recycle,” rather than technologies that are a continuation of the 19th century mindset of “waste, exploit, and destroy.” Destroying valuable non-renewable resources for the tiny amount of electricity created is not only a shortsighted response to the problem of waste, the impact of increased CO2 emissions flies in the face of the increasingly urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although the trash industry is making the case that trash is a renewable resource, the exact opposite is the case. The fact is that the high calorie components of MSW are plastic, which is made from petroleum (non-renewable) and paper (from trees that “renew” at a very slow rate) speaks to the non-renewable aspects of the feedstock.

We also note that disposing of plastics and paper in the solid waste stream is a violation of the state’s waste bans. Given the issue of lax enforcement of the waste bans, we have little confidence that these materials will be diverted from MSW. Changing the state’s policies to allow the destruction of these resources is a direct contradiction of the waste bans. We believe that the appropriate role for the MassDEP is to promote and support “upstream” solutions—waste reduction, reuse, repair, remanufacture, and EPR for products and packaging—in order to address global problems of dwindling material and energy resources and climate change. Combustion of any kind for municipal solid waste represents a failure to conserve our resources and protect the environment.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Daniel Proctor

Massachusetts Sierra Club, Chair

cc: Governor Deval Patrick Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell

2Fjournal.pone.0007940 2

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dumpster Dining: Dishing Up Food Waste Reality

"Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S.municipal solid waste where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables."

These are some of the unappetizing facts of food waste in America, based on an August 2012 NRDC issue report entitled, Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. To read the full report, go to:

Determined to bring the issue of food waste in Austria to the table and inspired by American reality shows, a group of Austrian artists/activisits have created a food waste based reality show for Austrian audiences, Waste Cooking. "Although I was prepared for large amounts, the amount of waste left me speechless," wrote David Gross, the program's producer on the show's website.

Waste Cooking episodes begin with the program's dumpster diving stars heading out to the dumpsters to mine them for meals. The camera follows them into the dumpster and records pound after pound of the perfect or near perfect food pulled from the dumpsters, from fruits and vegetables, cheeses, yogurt and baked goods. The food is taken back to the show's kitchen and turned into meals anyone could make and enjoy eating by Viennese food blogger and cooking instructor, Tobias Judmaier. to view an episode of Waste Cooking and a wastecooking shortfilm, Days in Trash, go to:

Watching the story of food go from dumpster to table is compelling TV, serving a hard to digest message about how food, scarce for so many, is discarded without a second thought by so many others.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cape Cod Commission's Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC)

Notes from David Dow re: Cape Cod & the Islands Group

I have been representing the Cape Cod & the Islands Group at the meetings of the Cape Cod Commission's Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) which is negotiating a municipal solid waste contract for most of the the towns on Cape Cod and some communities in southeastern Massa.    The SWAC representatives (Patty Daley, John Giorgio, Town Select Person and Town Administrator) will soon begin a 45 day exclusive msw contract negotiation with Covanta for disposal at the SEMASS waste-to-energy facility in Rochester, Ma.  If this contract negotiation process is not successful, SWAC will resume negotiations with Waste Management which is developing a pyrolysis process for msw with reuse of some of the solid residue.  The tipping fee for the new msw contract will likely double or triple when it comes into effect in 2015 (current $37-39 per ton fee is below the current market rates).

SWAC has a separate endeavor to increase recycling rates from an average of 30-35% in Cape Cod towns to the  60% target in the Cape Cod Commission's Regional Policy Plan.  This project is moving slowly, so that it is uncertain when this regional policy plan target will be met.  It will not be met by the end of 2012 as stated in the RPP.  Some towns have implemented pay as you throw plans for trash and garbage taken to town msw transfer stations.  The Falmouth League of Women Voters and town SWAC have tried to promote PAYT for curbside pickup as a way to increase recycling rates and reduce the volume subject to increased tipping fees after 2015.  These meetings generated a lot of controversy from opponents. Falmouth and Barnstable plan to sewer greater portions of their towns and upgrade their centralized wastewater treatment plants (WWTP).  This will create more excess sewage sludge (likely polluted with contaminants of emerging concern) which will have to be incinerated or subjected to pyrolysis.  This additional solid waste stream is likely to come online around 2020.

Even though local environmentalists have pushed for a Zero Waste response for msw regionally, this has not been considered by SWAC; Town Administrators or Select Boards.  The new msw contract will have to be approved by Town meeting in the Spring of 2013 with Town Select Boards approving the TM warrant articles.  This offers an opportunity to bring up the ZW approach for the follow on msw contract (after the new one expires in 5-10 years).  It would offer an opportunity for Sierra Club members in Cape Cod towns  to promote PAYT as an approach to increase recycling rates and reduce the tipping fee costs in the new msw contract.  The increased msw disposal costs could also be covered by increased msw fees; town enterprise zones (like Bourne, Ma.) or higher property tax rates.  Even though these costs increases are small in comparison to our wastewater technological solutions captital expenditures and operational costs, they pose environmental justice threats to seniors on fixed incomes; those who are un- or under employed; and service industry workers who use food pantries to supplement their life meagre styles.

Cape Cod towns need to pursue a ZW philosophy for both solid and liquid wastes.  We need to move from a disposal approach using a linear set of processes to a resource use challenge that requires working in concert with natural cycles for energy use and recycling of materials.  As Cape Cod's population levels have increased and our per capita use of energy/materials has risen, it has stressed the ability of our natural system to assimilate/recycle our wastewater and municipal solid wastes.  Our political leaders and bureaucrats on Cape Cod are not likely to take the lead in developing more sustainable life styles (since they risk avoiders and not risk takers).  Thus Sierra Club members have to work with their neighbors to push for ZW approaches to water conservation; wastewater degradation of our sole source aquifer/reducing nutrient loading to our impacted embayments and treating municipal solid wastes as resources out of place.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Good riddance!

MassDEP is undertaking some bold steps to reduce waste statewide. One step involves new regulations that will be in place by the time you read this blog. The other is a policy change that is under consideration and needs our support.

Food waste represents about 15% of municipal solid waste in Massachusetts and a substantial expense to the waste disposal costs of towns and cities.  Keeping food waste out of the waste stream not only reduces disposal costs, but can provide valuable products – compost and energy– for a triple win.
Regulations regarding processing of organic material (e.g. food, grass, leaves) were revised over the summer and early fall and finalized in anticipation that large generators of food waste (universities, supermarkets, large restaurants, etc.) will be prohibited from discarding food in the trash, beginning in 2014.
The new regulations are meant to encourage business investment in anaerobic digesters for food waste. Anaerobic digesters allow food and other source separated organic material to be broken down under controlled conditions so that methane is captured for energy instead of increasing global warming, as happens when organics  are deposited in landfills.

In addition to energy, anaerobic digestion produces compost from discarded food. The Sierra Club, along with other advocacy organizations, worked to ensure that sludge from sewage treatment plants would be prohibited as ‘stock’ going into food digesters, ensuring that the resulting compost will enrich soil without adding toxic chemicals and pathogens.

                                                     BACK THE BANS!   

Why waste bans?
Ninety percent of what households, businesses and institutions put in the garbage could be reused, recycled, or composted— but is wasted instead.

There’s an important policy change on the horizon at MassDEP that would conserve resources and cut the costs of disposal: keeping easily recyclable materials (paper, cardboard, bottles and cans etc.) from being burned or buried by enforcing existing Waste Bans.  The list of items banned from landfills and incinerators has been growing since the 1990s, but this regulation has rarely been enforced at disposal facilities. Once again, the Sierra Club joined forces with other organizations and is advocating for stronger enforcement of MassDEP waste bans guidelines. 
MassDEP has responded by proposing stronger guidelines for inspection of garbage trucks arriving at landfills, incinerators and transfer stations. These changes would mean more resources ‘saved’ from trash through increased recycling and composting, and also lower disposal costs for municipalities due to lower trash tonnage--a clear win-win for MA residents and the environment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sandwich Success Story!

While overall recycling rates in MA have stalled for the past decade, Sandwich, MA and other municipalities have defied that trend by adopting Pay-as-You-Throw (PAYT) programs. Studies have shown that PAYT programs are the fastest, surest route to reducing solid waste and increasing recycling rates.

In Sandwich, MA, the results were clear and impressive within six months of operation, with a dramatic drop of 41% in solid waste tonnage alongside a 65% increase in recyclable materials collection.

Many towns move to PAYT as a hedge against the ever increasing cost of trash disposal. While amounts vary from town to town, Sandwich is typical of other PAYT communities in realizing the financial benefit of reduced trash tonnage, saving $65,000 in tipping fees alone. 

With less trash to throw away, transfer Station traffic also fell making reduced Transfer Station hours a viable option for the town. Less DPW time spent at the Transfer Station frees up time for DPW staff to work on other town projects in need of attention.

A growing number of communities have found that PAYT helps turn a waste stream into a revenue stream. Which do you think is a smarter use of tax dollars—paying to bury trash in landfills and burn in incinerators or funding essential town services?

Go to: to read the Cape Cod Times article on Sandwich’s PAYT program.