Massachusetts planning food waste ban for businesses

Regulations proposed in Massachusetts by the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will ban commercial businesses, including hotels, from discarding food waste.

Greg Cooper, director of consumer programs for the DEP, expects the regulations to be implemented by the middle of 2014.

"My feeling is that it is highly unlikely it will not happen," Cooper said.

The DEP is currently in the process of holding a series of stakeholder meetings in order to develop a framework of what the ban will look like. Those discussions are taking place monthly. The framework for the regulations will be done by fall, followed by some time for public comment. The regulation will be in draft form by the beginning of 2013.

Cooper told Green Lodging News that the ban will have several important benefits: protect the state's limited disposal capacity, save businesses from having to pay high solid waste disposal fees, and help fuel a series of plants throughout the state that will generate renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. About 100,000 tons of organic food waste is currently composted in Massachusetts each year. That is just a small fraction of the 1.5 million tons disposed of annually. The DEP's goal is for an additional 350,000 tons of organic food waste to be diverted from landfills by 2020.

"We have a pretty good composting infrastructure already," Cooper said. "It currently manages all the organics being currently diverted."

He expects the regulations to prompt businesses to fill the need for organic waste collection, processing, and the marketing of the product coming out of the back end.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas

Food waste currently sitting in Massachusetts landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 23 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. In a controlled environment, such as a plant that converts waste into energy, heat and fertilizer, the methane can be contained.

Dan Ruben, executive director of Boston Green Tourism, said the new regulations will pose logistical challenges, particularly for urban hotels with small, inconvenient loading docks.

"But some facilities already overcome these challenges," Ruben said. "Others now use decomposition machines, which will probably be acceptable, too."

The coming regulations will make Massachusetts the first state with such a comprehensive prohibition on commercial food waste. Cooper said Connecticut and Vermont are working on similar programs.

Food waste, compostable paper and other organics represent 25 percent of the waste stream in Massachusetts.

This article originally appeared at Green Lodging News and is reprinted with permission.

Food waste image via Shutterstock.