Massachusetts’ Food Waste Ban – Are You Ready?
Massachusetts regulations banning commercial food waste disposal take effect this coming October 1. (See our blog post last fall for more detail about the scope of the waste ban.)
Colleges and universities (among other institutions) that dispose of at least 1 ton of “commercial organic material” per week will no longer be able to send that waste to landfills. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that schools with 730 residential students or 2,750 non-residential students will likely meet the one-ton threshold. The threshold is calculated by aggregating waste from all buildings on a single campus.
What are your compliance options? Schools can pay a waste hauler to take their food waste to a licensed off-site disposal facility, or they can create composting or anaerobic digestion operations on campus. New regulations exempting certain operations from complicated permitting may make the on-site option less costly and easier to implement. (These new regulations also apply to aerobic digestion projects, but DEP, and this blog post, is focusing on anaerobic digestion because that process produces renewable energy in the form of biogas, unlike aerobic digestion.)
How can you permit composting and anaerobic digestion facilities? Small composting operations are easy to set up under the new regulations. Composting operations receiving less than 10 tons/week of organic material are exempt from siting and permitting requirements. Simply notify DEP 30 days before beginning operations using this form available on its website.
Mid-size operations will benefit from some regulatory exemptions. Composting operations receiving 10-105 tons/week (and no more than 30 tons/day), and anaerobic digestion facilities receiving no more than 100 tons/day of certain organic materials (based on a 30-day rolling average) do not require site assignment, a two-step process before DEP and the local board of health to determine whether a proposed site is suitable for a solid waste management facility. But they must obtain a General Permit and comply with certain requirements. Among other steps, they must:
- Ensure no unpermitted discharge of pollutants, nuisance or significant threat to public health;
- Incorporate best management practices, including managing stormwater and implementing odor control plans;
- Locate at least 250 feet from any existing water supply well;
- Ensure the proper ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen in the organic materials;
- Ensure that all handling of organic materials takes place in sealed tanks with odor controls; and
- Keep proper records for three years.
General Permit certification forms are available online and must be filled out by an authorized official at least 30 days before beginning operations.
Larger operations or those that do not meet these criteria must obtain site assignment for those facilities.
Is financial assistance available? The DEP recycling loan funds provide low-interest financing for recycling projects in Massachusetts, with priority assistance for food waste projects. The DEP Sustainable Materials Recovery Program Municipal Grants offers funding for projects such as composting and anaerobic digestion operations that divert solid waste from disposal. This program accepts applications between early April and mid-June annually.
Production-based incentives are also available. These incentives offer compensation for creating green energy for third-party consumption (e.g., by net metering).
Are any anaerobic digestion facilities operating yet? Yes. In Massachusetts, Rutland and Sheffield have anaerobic digesters generating power for private and municipal use. The Town of Dartmouth is constructing an anaerobic digestion project at its active landfill, with the intention to handle Dartmouth and New Bedford food waste, and produce bio-gas for use at the landfill. And a farm in Hadley has started a facility to handle its organic waste and produce electricity.
Out of state, several universities have moved into anaerobic digestion. The University of California-Davis and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh have facilities on campus, converting food waste into energy for the campus grid.
For more information about DEP’s amended regulations or how your school can address its organic wastes, please call Art Kreiger or Amy VanHeuverzwyn.