Massachusetts Lifts Landfill Moratorium

In an effort to regain its status as neither a net importer nor net exporter of garbage, Massachusetts officials have lifted a five-year moratorium to allow for more landfill capacity.

As part of the state's recently released “Beyond 2000 Solid Waste Master Plan,” removing the moratorium will ensure that Massachusetts has enough space to dispose of all of its own garbage, even as the plan calls for increased waste reduction, says Jim Colman, assistant commissioner for waste prevention.

Inspired in part by state department of environmental protection's (DEP) predictions of an 8-million-ton garbage shortfall by 2010, the solid waste master plan anticipates that approximately 1.8 million tons of disposal capacity could be added by lifting the moratorium. Modified recycling and reuse plans would address the remaining 78 percent of the shortfall.

Another reason for lifting the moratorium is to compensate for landfill closures, Colman says. Since the DEP instituted its 1990 master plan, 105 unlined landfills have been closed, leaving a total of 19 Massachusetts landfills still in operation.

Until five years ago, Massachusetts had managed to maintain enough capacity for its own needs, in accordance with a policy the state instituted in 1998. But in 1996, the state was forced to export waste due to lack of disposal capacity. After that, the amount of exported waste continued to increase steadily. In 1999, 1.2 million of the state's approximately 8 million tons of waste had to be exported, Colman says.

In light of rising export rates, the DEP allowed six landfills to apply for expansion permits in 1999, Colman continues. Five permits were granted, and one still is pending.

“We were drawing up [a revised] solid waste master plan,” he adds. “This just seemed like the right time to take action.”

By lifting the moratorium and accepting permits for landfill expansion and building, Colman says Massachusetts will be able to regain its equilibrium.

“We have a responsibility to take care of the trash we [as a state] generate. We shouldn't be sending it out-of-state,” he says. “This is part of our balanced approach to deal with the waste we're going to generate.”

Steve Changaris, Northeast regional manager for the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., applauds the lifting of the moratorium, but calls the new plan “a mixed bag.”

Concerned about the strings that the new solid waste master plan attaches to landfill siting and expansion, Changaris says the master plan requires landfill managers to implement a “recycling benefits plan” before receiving a permit to expand an existing facility or build a new facility. But reducing waste toxicity and increasing recycling is not landfill managers' responsibility, he notes.

“[Massachusetts regulators] want our industry to put money into the system to help with recycling. That's not our role,” Changaris continues. “The DEP misses the point of how our business operates — it's trying to make [landfill operators] work on a lower capacity. But we need 100 percent [capacity].”

Although the NSWMA “fought long and hard” to lift the moratorium, stricter siting laws and other issues still must be addressed, Changaris says.

But being strict on disposal is a hallmark of the state's plan, according to Colman. The plan's overall goal is to reduce waste and recycle what is wasted, he says, noting that the state's current recycling goal is 46 percent.

Already, Massachusetts spends $8 million per year to promote recycling through curbside pickup, education programs and equipment. The new plan proposes an additional $7 million in recycling funds to assist municipalities and businesses in meeting the state's recycling goal.

Critics say a 46 percent recycling rate either is too aggressive or is not high enough, but Colman says the DEP will monitor the new policies and make adjustments accordingly.

“We have a lot of work to do to raise that [recycling] rate. Our proposals are very aggressive,” he says. “We're trying to deal with this one step at a time.”

The solid waste master plan's other initiatives include:

  • Working with manufacturers to encourage packaging reduction, take-back initiatives, and other means of reducing waste and toxics;

  • Promoting DEP legislation that requires that multi-family housing residents have access to recycling;

  • Hiring someone to work with waste processors to increase construction and demolition (C&D) recycling, in preparation for the state's 2003 ban on unprocessed C&D in landfills; and

  • Phasing-in landfill capacity increases during the next five years.


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  • American Ecology Corp., Boise, Idaho, has acquired Envirosafe Services of Idaho Inc. in a stock purchase from Envirosource Corp., Horsham, Pa.

  • United Dominion Industries, Thousand Palms, Calif., has acquired Pearpoint.

  • Texas Disposal Systems, Austin, Texas, has acquired Garden-Ville Inc., San Antonio.

  • Waste Recycling Group, London, has purchased Hanson Waste Management, Bristol, United Kingdom.

  • Heil Environmental Industries Ltd., Chattanooga, Tenn., has acquired Bayne Machine Works Inc., Greenville, S.C.

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  • Superior Services Inc., Milwaukee, has acquired Lloyd Brothers Trucking, Wausau, Wis.

  • Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill., has signed a letter of intent to acquire the Timberking track feller buncher intellectual property from Canada-based Risley Manufacturing Ltd.

  • Veit & Company Inc., Minneapolis, has acquired Des Moines, Iowa-based W.G. Jacques Company Inc.


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  • The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST), Mount Prospect, Ill., is soliciting papers for its annual technical meetings. Papers may be submitted online at


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  • Heritage Environmental Services LLC., Indianapolis, has received accreditation under National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference standards.


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  • American Ref-Fuel Co., Houston, changed its power purchase contract with Atlantic City Electric Co. (ACE), Charleston, S.C., and PECO Energy Co., Philadelphia. The changes eliminate an old transmission agreement and restructure the current power purchase agreement with ACE.

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  • The city of Seattle has signed new contracts with waste haulers Rabanco, Seattle, and Waste Management Inc., Houston, to consolidate commercial collection service areas and provide more cost-effective garbage collection, the city says.

  • Portland's regional government has approved a change in ownership for its primary waste transporter Specialty Transportation Services, Portage, Ind.

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    International Truck and Engine Corp., Chicago, has agreed to become an official sponsor of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Daytona Beach, Fla.