By Taryn Hallweaver, Toxics Action Center - For years, residents of Falmouth have been working to increase the town’s recycling rate. They have initiated new recycling programs, but the rate remains stagnant at 37%. Advocates say that without better guidance from the state on how Massachusetts can reduce waste disposal, it can be difficult for towns to make progress on their own.
Two years ago this July 1st, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released its draft Solid Waste Master Plan for 2010–2020, “Pathway to Zero Waste.” Following the release, DEP held five public hearings on the plan across the state and received input from municipalities, businesses and industry, recycling advocacy groups, and hundreds of citizens. And since then, the draft Solid Waste Master Plan--the state’s number one guiding document on all things waste--has been sitting on the shelf, gathering dust, waiting to be finalized and shown to the public. According to DEP staff, they have sent their draft plan “up the line” and are waiting for an approved plan that they can release.
David Dow, chair of the Cape Cod and the Islands Sierra Club, and a resident of Falmouth, notes that Falmouth’s pay-as-you-throw program has helped increase recycling. "In Falmouth we already have a pay-as-you-throw program for our Trash Transfer Station and are considering it for our curbside pickup program,” explains Dow. “Pay-as-you-throw will help us increase our town recycling rate, which will reduce our volume of trash/garbage and save the Town money post-2015, when Cape Cod develops a regional contract for municipal solid wastes with a higher tipping fee.”
He continued, “We need support from MassDEP's Solid Waste Master Plan to move to a zero waste approach here on Cape Cod over the longer term."
“Massachusetts needs a roadmap to get to zero waste,” said Sylvia Broude, executive director of Toxics Action Center. “Two years ago, hundreds of stakeholders weighed in on the plan’s strengths and flaws. All that citizen energy has gone to waste--and it’s not the only thing going to waste. In the meantime, trash is piling up in landfills, we’ve still failed to pass the Bottle Bill and E-Waste Bill, and municipalities and businesses are looking for direction from the state.”
The draft Solid Waste Master Plan for 2010-2020 set a statewide goal of decreasing solid waste disposal by 30% by 2020, mainly through increasing recycling rates and diverting organic waste away from landfills and incinerators. While Massachusetts is poised to benefit greatly from moving towards zero waste, much of the testimony and many of the comments submitted took issue with the definition of and approach to zero waste in the draft--the devil is in the details and underscores why it’s so important that a final plan be issued.
Some advocates say that the draft Solid Waste Master Plan, while not perfect, will give a green light to businesses in the recycling and composting industries that Massachusetts is a strong market and a good place to grow their companies if it’s finalized soon. A new report shows that the recycling industry in the state is ready to add another 1,200 jobs in the next two years, a 15 percent growth rate.
“MASSPIRG is thinking the next step is to make a dentist appointment for DEP,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director. “That may be the only way to do the extraction needed for the final Solid Waste Master Plan.”