As part of the Commonwealth’s commitment to help increase the diversion, reuse and recycling of materials, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced that during calendar year 2018, the agency issued 119 notices of non-compliance and eight waste ban orders with penalties to entities found violating the rules.
These actions, which build upon the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to promote the environmental benefits of recycling, were for violations involving the improper disposal of significant amounts of recyclable materials and cover a wide spectrum of public and private institutions, including the food and retail sectors, hospitality sector and educational and medical facilities.
“While Massachusetts’ waste bans have increased recycling, it is important to make sure that the rules are being followed,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg in a statement. “The inspection and compliance efforts have helped to highlight these opportunities for businesses and help them fix and improve their recycling programs. These inspections will continue as we work to make sure that we are doing our best to promote recycling.”
For years, the agency has had in place—and enforced—solid waste disposal bans. Waste bans have benefitted the environment and the Commonwealth by helping stimulate the market for recyclable materials, preserving the state’s limited disposal capacity, conserving natural resources and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 80 percent of observed waste ban violations are for disposal of cardboard, a material that is simple and cost effective to recycle with well-established markets. For most of these violations, companies already had recycling programs in place. While the programs faced issues such as insufficient staff training, lack of signage or containers that were not the right size or not collected frequently enough, upon receiving a notice for a waste ban violation, companies have addressed issues and returned to compliance.
First-time violators receive a notice explaining the waste ban program rules along with a reminder to improve the company’s practices in order to adhere to the state regulations. If MassDEP later observes the same company continuing to throw out banned materials, then a penalty is issued.
The actions taken by MassDEP are part of a comprehensive strategy that utilizes inspections and enforcement, third-party monitoring data and enhanced outreach and education and assistance. A major program to help institutions recycle right is RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts. RecyclingWorks is a MassDEP-funded program that provides free help to businesses to reduce waste and increase recycling.
The Commonwealth’s waste bans include materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal containers, construction materials and leaves and yard waste.
In the Commonwealth’s 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, increased waste ban compliance and enforcement efforts were highlighted as one of the key strategies to move recycling forward and meet the Commonwealth’s goal to reduce disposal by 2 million tons on an annual basis by 2020.
Businesses that receive a notice of non-compliance are required to respond to MassDEP with their plan of action to stop the disposal of banned materials. Businesses that are looking for assistance with increasing recycling and composting can obtain information and assistance through the RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program.