Environmental and Land Use Law

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Table Scraps Get an Upgrade: Massachusetts Proposes to Ban Throwing Away Commercial Food

Potential beneficiary of the DEP’s new food waste ban

The Patrick Administration has proposed banning the disposal of food waste by large institutions.  The ban would start in July 2014.  The state also proposes $4m in grants and low-interest loans to support anaerobic digestion (AD), a new method of handling organic waste.

These commercial food initiatives are part of the state’s “aggressive waste disposal reduction goals” (see our previous post on its ambitious new Solid Waste Master Plan), according to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan.  The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) intends the proposed ban and funding for AD facilities to spur the development of cost-effective collection and processing of organic waste.  (In an AD facility, organic waste is fed into a sealed chamber with no oxygen.  Microbes inside the chamber break down the organics and generate bio-gas, which produces electricity and heat.)

What Will the Ban Entail?  The ban will require affected institutions to donate or re-purpose their usable food.  They will have to either ship it to an AD facility, a composting operation or an animal-feed operation, or install their own AD facility on-site.  Those contemplating on-site systems should take advantage of the financial and technical resources that the DEP is making available to AD developers.

Who Will the Ban Affect?  The food waste ban will apply to any entity that disposes of over one ton per week of “organic waste” – that is, biodegradable material.   DEP estimates that the following entities will probably meet that threshold:

  • colleges and universities – 730 residential students or 2,750 non-residential students
  • secondary schools – 1,600 students
  • resort and conference facilities – 475 seats
  • nursing homes – 160 beds
  • hospitals – 80 beds
  • restaurants – 35 or more full-time employees
  • supermarkets – 35 or more full-time employees

The one-ton threshold will be determined by aggregating all food waste generated for a particular location.  For example, a separate calculation will be required for each campus of a school or medical facility and each location of a restaurant chain.  The DEP monitors waste bans at solid waste facilities, and a facility will be required to take action if more than 10% of a load’s volume is organic material.

About the Author

Arthur P. Kreiger – Partner

Art has more than 30 years of experience in all types of environmental and land use matters.


Posted In: DEP

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