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MassDEP Extends Comment Period on Draft Solid Waste Master Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has scheduled additional online public hearings and extended the comment period on the Draft 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan. Issuance of the final plan is unlikely to occur before the end of the year.

Background

State law requires MassDEP to develop and maintain a comprehensive statewide master plan for solid waste management, which the agency does on a 10-year cycle. MassDEP published its first solid waste master plan in 1990.

The Beyond 2000 Solid Waste Master Plan set ambitious goals, setting “zero waste” milestones for the Commonwealth. MassDEP updated waste reduction, recycling, and disposal policies in support of the Beyond 2000 plan.

Twenty years (and a few master plan revisions) later, Massachusetts is still struggling to meet its goals for waste reduction and recycling. Solid waste disposal capacity in Massachusetts is shrinking rapidly and MassDEP has had to acknowledge that much of the Commonwealth’s solid waste is being disposed out-of-state.

Current Status

MassDEP has compiled a summary of progress made under the 2010-2020 Master Plan. Among the highlights is a reduction in the disposal of food waste. MassDEP has conducted more than 1,000 inspections for compliance with waste bans. According to 2018 figures compiled by MassDEP, Massachusetts generates approximately 5.7 million tons of solid waste annually. Approximately 1.2 million tons – or 21% – on a net basis is disposed out-of state.

MassDEP reports that all but one Massachusetts landfill is projected to close by 2030. Solid waste transfer stations with rail capacity have grown, which helps with waste management capacity but runs counter to a previously-stated goal of managing waste in state.

Draft 2030 Master Plan

The draft plan currently under review has three overall goals:

  1. Reduce disposal by 1.7 million tons (30%) by 2030

  2. Reduce disposal by 5.1 million tons (90%) by 2050

  3. Reduce the toxicity of the solid waste stream

In support of these goals, MassDEP has identified ways in which materials can be diverted from the waste stream. The draft 2030 Master Plan also describes various source reduction and reuse strategies, as well as ways to reduce organics, residential, and commercial waste. MassDEP is developing a Strategic Reduce & Reuse Plan that will assess opportunities, identify barriers and needs, provide data, and create a network to support the waste reduction goals of the plan.

Details of the Draft 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan can be found here. Based on input received during the initial public comment period, as well as other developments, MassDEP has scheduled more online public hearings and extended the comment period. The reopened public comment period will focus specifically, but not exclusively, on issues of environmental justice, climate change, and the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic as they relate to solid waste management.

Public hearings on the Draft 2030 Master Plan will be held via Zoom videoconference on August 20, September 1, and September 10 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. The comment period on the draft plan has been extended to September 15, 2020. Comments should be submitted to dep.swmp@mass.gov.

The goals of the 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan will affect Massachusetts solid waste policy for decades. With disposal capacity shrinking daily, and no new disposal facilities likely to be built, Massachusetts will either have to reduce its solid waste generation significantly or continue to rely on out-of-state disposal options. The latter requires continued reliance on transfer facilities.

©2020 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 212

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About this Author

Michelle N. O'Brien, Pierce Atwood, environmental attorney
Partner

Michelle O'Brien handles environmental and land use permitting and related litigation for various types of developments including residential homes, commercial buildings, waterfront properties, wind turbines, and solid waste facilities. She defends companies in environmental enforcement matters at the federal, state, and local levels. She represents private parties in cost recovery and property damage claims involving releases of oil and hazardous materials, and assists clients with real estate transactions involving contaminated properties.

An accomplished...

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