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Volume XII, Number 275


September 30, 2022

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MassDEP Reopens Public Comment Period for Targeted Issues in Draft 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is reopening the public comment period on its draft Solid Waste Master Plan for 2020­–2030 in light of developments and comments associated with COVID-19, environmental justice, and climate change. MassDEP will accept public comments targeted to these subjects through September 15, 2020, and the first of four public online meetings is scheduled for July 22, 2020.

The Solid Waste Master Plan, required by statute to be published every decade since 1990, is intended to be a framework for engaging in a deliberative planning process that explores short- and long-term programs to manage solid waste generated, recycled, or disposed of in Massachusetts by both residents and businesses. In its fourth installment, the current draft Solid Waste Master Plan for 2020–2030 proposes to focus on seven program areas for the next decade: source reduction and reuse, organics waste reduction, residential waste reduction, commercial waste reduction, construction and demolition debris waste reduction, market development, and solid waste facility oversight and capacity management.

MassDEP received more than 100 pages of public comments during the original comment period that ended in December 2019. Although MassDEP was vague as to the reasons for the additional comment period – referencing input received during the initial public comment period “as well as other developments” – MassDEP posed six questions to be addressed during this additional public comment period:

  1. What specific challenges are faced by populations that are disproportionally impacted by solid waste activities? How could the Commonwealth’s Solid Waste Master Plan address these challenges?

  2. How can environmental justice communities be better reflected in how waste is managed in Massachusetts?

  3. Are there specific policies or programs recommended that would address the solid waste management concerns of environmental justice communities?

  4. What actions can be pursued to reduce carbon emissions from the management of solid waste to help meet the Commonwealth Global Warming Solution Act goals?

  5. What impacts does COVID-19 have on waste management?

  6. Are there specific waste management initiatives that may be problematic or beneficial to implement as we adjust to the impacts of COVID-19?

These topics sharpen the focus of the draft Master Plan and highlight current concerns that have arisen since the initial comment period, specifically the COVID-19 pandemic and rallies across the country regarding institutional racial injustice, and their impact on the issues of waste facility capacity and strategies for waste reduction.

MassDEP had identified that its overarching policy goal in the Master Plan is to put in place the building blocks towards a zero-waste future, requiring significant policy action as well as cultural and societal change. However, the coronavirus pandemic has also instigated dramatic cultural and societal changes with real-world impacts on waste generation, collection, and disposal. For example, recycling was impacted by suspensions of municipal collection efforts and the Commonwealth’s bottle redemption requirements during the pandemic state of emergency. Commercial waste plummeted and residential waste increased as employees worked from home, cooked from home, and entertained themselves at home. As people relied on more and more deliveries from Amazon, Walmart, and other online purveyors, cardboard piled up in greater amounts. How long these and other impacts will last and how they might change the inputs to the Commonwealth’s waste remain to be seen.

But they will need to be considered as MassDEP proposed to prioritize five materials for diversion from solid waste facilities, several of which are directly impacted: food material, cardboard, untreated wood, textiles, and bulky materials. In addition, MassDEP also proposed to attempt to reduce or phase out single-use packaging, increase reuse and donation opportunities, and develop local markets for diverted or recycled food material, mattresses, glass and textiles. All of this now comes at a time when reuse carries a stigma of potential coronavirus contamination.

Public online meetings are scheduled for:

The reopened public comment period on the draft Master Plan ends September 15. 

© 2022 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume X, Number 190

About this Author

Marc J. Goldstein Environmental Contamination & Project Development Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA
Office Managing Principal

Marc helps clients resolve problems and disputes arising from environmental contamination and residential, commercial, and industrial project development.

Marc helps clients resolve problems and disputes arising from environmental contamination and residential, commercial, and industrial project development. Going beyond legal issues, Marc works closely with clients to address the business risks and solve the business problems that complex environmental and land use disputes pose. For example, Marc defends companies against government enforcement actions threatening to shut their...

Brook Detterman Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

Brook's practice focuses on climate change, renewable energy, and environmental litigation.

Brook helps his clients to navigate domestic and international climate change programs, develop renewable energy projects, and generate carbon offsets.  He helps his clients to negotiate, structure, and implement transactions related to carbon offsets and renewable energy, and works with clients during all phases of renewable energy and carbon offset project development.  Brook also represents clients during complex environmental litigation, having served as litigation and appellate counsel...

Stephen M. Richmond Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

Steve provides strategic advice to clients with environmental issues arising from permitting, regulatory complexity, federal and state enforcement and business transactions.

His experience spans numerous environmental areas, and he spends a substantial portion of his time working on matters related to air quality, solid and hazardous waste, incident response, risk management planning, and transactional support.

His clients typically run businesses subject to multiple layers of environmental requirements. He works to achieve business objectives by analyzing regulatory and...

Dylan J. King Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

Dylan uses his legal and business skills to help clients solve problems.

He maintains a diverse environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors. He has developed experience with solid waste facility siting, pipeline and hazardous material transportation regulations, site contamination litigation, and local zoning matters. Dylan joined the firm following his graduation from Vermont Law School with a certificate in Energy Law.

During his time at Vermont Law School, Dylan worked with the Vermont Law School Energy Clinic...