Massachusetts has banned commercial operations from sending food waste to landfills as part of its climate action plan.
As of October 1, 2014, any entity that generates at least one ton of organic material per week has to either donate or re-purpose useable food and send the rest to a biogas facility, where it will be converted to clean energy or composted.
The ban will help the state meet its twin goals of reducing waste disposal (which creates methane in landfills) and increasing clean energy production.
It affects about 1700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges, universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and food service and
Through a partnership between the Massachusetts Food Association and MassDEP, 300 supermarkets already separate out their food waste, saving each store about $20,000 a year on disposal costs.
As in most other states, food waste makes up about 25% of the waste stream. Massachusetts' goal is to reduce its total waste 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
Under the state's very aggressive Global Warming Solutions Act, its overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% by 2050. After reaching the target for its Renewable Energy Portfolio, the state substantially raised it. Besides being one of the top states for solar, for the last two years, the state has been recognized as the most energy efficient in the US.
"Over the next eight months, we plan to join with these stakeholders to conduct additional outreach, education, technical assistance and infrastructure development to ensure a smooth transition for the businesses covered by the
ban," says Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
Another boon from the ban is the growth of composting and biogas plants across the state, needed to manage all the incoming organic material. MassDEP is working to site them on farms, wastewater treatment plants and other public and private locations by providing technical assistance and up to $1 million in grants.
A companion program,
"RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts" is designed to help businesses and institutions
increase recycling and comply with the waste disposal ban. The online resource
includes a searchable service provider database, a phone hotline and direct
technical assistance. MassDEP also offers technical and financial
assistance to municipalities and is adding funding to the Recycling
Loan Fund that supports projects that increase recycling infrastructure, including managing organic waste.
We've written extensively about the benefits of biogas, an organic form of natural gas made from food and other organic waste from landfills, dairies and sewage treatment plants. It's the perfect way to make natural gas from recycled sources - no fracking necessary. It can be used as fuel for transportation and to heat and cool buildings.
New York City enacted a similar law at the end of last year, which applies only to restaurants.
Read our article, Carbon Footprint From Food Waste Bigger Than Most Countries.