In an effort to expand recycling of certain materials throughout the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration announced new goals and strategies to further its efforts and published regulations to require recycling in several areas. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP) Final 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan: Working Together Toward Zero Waste, sets a goal to reduce disposal 30 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, along with strategies to meet those goals. The final master plan followed an extensive public comment period and engagement on a previously published draft plan. Additionally, MassDEP issued regulations requiring the recycling of textiles and mattresses and increased requirements for food and organic materials.
“The Solid Waste Master Plan will significantly improve the Commonwealth’s waste management system and provide important environmental, climate and economic benefits,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Together, the Master Plan and the regulations set new, aggressive state-level waste reduction goals that align with our carbon emission reduction programs, invest in innovation and enhance ongoing engagement with communities across the Commonwealth.”
“Even though we’ve made progress over the years, too much trash in Massachusetts still contains materials that can be recycled and reused,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The Final 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan outlines a strategy to increase waste reduction and reuse, and further develop recycling market demand to support our recycling businesses.”
The Final 2030 Master Plan sets a goal to reduce disposal by 30 percent from 5.7 million tons in 2018 to 4 million tons in 2030, as well as a long-term goal to achieve a 90 percent reduction to 570,000 tons by 2050. The Plan also includes measures to align the 2030 Master Plan with the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan and the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, linking with the Baker-Polito Administration’s goal to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by reaching a reduction of 300,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions annually from municipal waste combustors by reducing disposal of plastic materials at these facilities.
Furthermore, the plan includes initiatives to strengthen engagement with and support of Environmental Justice communities, including increasing engagement with EJ populations in all phases of MassDEP’s regulatory process, improving recycling grant evaluation criteria to recognize EJ community issues, promoting small-scale composting assistance to enable composting at community gardens in EJ areas, and promoting and encouraging the use of electric and hybrid trash and recycling collection vehicles in EJ communities. It also announces increased recycling business development grants and a new recycling research and development grant program to drive innovation in recycling and waste reduction. This program will be developed in consultation with a new Recycling Market Development Council that will promote the use of recycled materials by state agencies.
“In order to meet our solid waste and climate goals, our state agencies and municipalities will need to build on the progress we’ve made through continued collaboration while improving in critical areas, including the development of programs that serve Environmental Justice communities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to advancing these goals through innovative approaches, like banning the disposal of mattresses and textiles, that will increase recycling and promote waste reduction, while simultaneously building a regulatory program that aligns with our ambitious climate and equity goals.”
MassDEP held an initial round of public hearings and a comment period in the fall of 2019 to gather public input on the Draft Solid Waste Master Plan. Then, with the urging and support of environmental advocacy organizations, MassDEP held a second round of public meetings and a second public comment period in the summer of 2020. In this second comment period, MassDEP sought comment specifically on concerns of Environmental Justice communities, connections between solid waste management and climate change, and COVID-19 impacts.
“The Final Plan places increased emphasis on waste reduction and reuse. MassDEP is working with hundreds of stakeholders to craft a Reduce and Reuse Action Plan, which will serve as Massachusetts’ first comprehensive action plan focused on reducing and reusing waste, not just recycling,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The Master Plan helps us chart a course to a future that involves less disposal, more reuse and recycling, greater citizen participation and better protection of our natural resources.”
MassDEP expects to publish the initial Reduce and Reuse Action Plan later this year, and then to continue to engage with stakeholders on a regular basis as the Plan is implemented and updated over the coming years. The agency will also form a Recycling Market Development Workgroup to obtain stakeholder input and engagement into the development of a comprehensive Recycling Market Development Action Plan.
While the Master Plan will be implemented over a 10-year period, and beyond, MassDEP is focused on launching major initiatives within one year of publishing the Final Plan. These key short-term initiatives include:
- Finalizing waste ban regulation amendments concurrent with this announcement that will ban the disposal of mattresses and textiles and lower the commercial food waste ban threshold from one ton to a half-ton per week effective November 2022.
- Completing Massachusetts’ first comprehensive Reduce & Reuse Action Plan by the end of 2021.
- Launching a new Recycling Market Development Workgroup and State Agency Recycling Market Development Council.
- Engaging stakeholders in developing revisions to MassDEP’s solid waste regulations, a process that will lead to publishing draft regulations in 2022.
- Modifying grant, assistance, education, and outreach programs to deliver increased assistance and resources and improve engagement with EJ communities. This will include expanding the availability of outreach materials in multiple languages.
- Working with the Legislature to share information on MassDEP’s programs and policies and to develop effective approaches to reduce the use of single-use packaging, advance extended producer responsibility systems for paint, mattresses, electronics, and other products and packaging, and develop approaches to ensure convenient statewide recycling access.
- Implementing MassDEP’s Minimum Performance Standard for facilities that process construction-and-demolition materials. This will ensure a level playing field across the industry and support increased recycling of these materials.
Finally, MassDEP will conduct a program review in 2025, including exploring the potential to establish a declining cap on carbon dioxide emissions from municipal waste combustors.
For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-releases-final-2030-solid-waste-master-plan.