Recycling crisis, H447 "An act to reduce packaging waste in the Commonwealth"
State House, Room 348, Rep. Hecht host
June 5, 2018
Rep. Jonathan Hecht
House W&M Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez’ office
Rep. Ruth Balser’s office
Rep. Claire Cronin’s office
Rep. David DeCoste’s office
Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ office
Rep. Kay Khan’s office
Rep. Paul McMurtry’s office
Sen. Vinnie DeMacedo’s office
MassRecycle: Edward Hsieh
SSRC: Claire Galkowski (also Mass Product Stewardship Council), Julie Sullivan
Town of Plymouth volunteers: Ken Stone, John Hammond
Casella Waste and Recycling: Mark Evans, Abbie Webb
Miller Recycling: Bob Boucher
Republic Services: Terry Grady
Town of Bedford/ Mass. Product Stewardship Council: Edward McGrath
· Impact of China embargo, Ardagh Glass plant closure on recycling industry, municipalities, environment: China, our region’s outlet for about 30% of residential recyclables, has stopped accepting our material. Main reason: increasing amount of nonrecyclable material in the bales, especially soft plastics, food and liquids. Values and outlets have plummeted, and costs have gone from $0-$60 or 70/ton for single stream material since last fall. Recycling facilities have huge backlogs of material with no place to go. Article about crisis was on front page of Globe today.
· Town of Plymouth suspending municipal curbside collection program end of month because of this. Residents will pay much more to private haulers.
· Disposal capacity projections in Mass. also point to fewer outlets. Disposal capacity will be 10-20% below in state generation by 2022.
· Casella Mark Evans: despite public outreach efforts, contamination rates still high, complicates sortation. Problem has grown over past 10 years. “Wishful recycling” evident, especially with PAYT programs. Rules are difficult to communicate.
· SSRC Recycling Education and Compliance Officer Julie Sullivan: Consumers are confused by recycling symbols on non-recyclable materials, misleading messaging. She sees much disgusting stuff in recycling, diapers and worse. Has tried many methods of communicating directly with residents, makes a marginal difference.
· MassRecycle Director Ed Hsieh: we aren’t communicating on the same level as producers who have millions in advertising budgets. Waste bans prohibit disposal of recyclables at facility, but up to cities/towns to require it at point of generation. Public space kiosks with behavior science based signage in a few places; need more sophisticated marketing.
· Role of packaging waste in recycling, disposal, embargo: 30% of all waste is packaging, 60% of recycling. Producers have no responsibility for resultant waste.
· Packaging stewardship models: EU, Canada producers must take physical custody of their disposed material.
· H447 would only require financial custody, maintain current infrastructure. Shared responsibility through a packaging fee to an expendable trust. Lower fee for recyclable, recycled and low volume packaging. Would help reduce waste volume, improve quality of recyclables, and increase demand for recycled material. Funds used to bolster recycling infrastructure, outreach and education.
· Packaging stewardship efforts in CT, CA are underway.
· In EU, unnecessary packaging eliminated altogether due to producer responsibility, i.e. toothpaste boxes.
From South Shore Recycling Cooperative:
The time has come to discuss cost sharing for end-of-life management of packaging materials.
Packaging materials make up about 30% of our disposed tons, and over half of our recycling. Much of it is unnecessary, nonrecyclable, or not made with recycled material. Recycling markets are in a tailspin with no end in sight. Costs to municipalities and recyclers have gone from 0 to $60/ton (and higher) in 8 months. The volume and variety of packaging materials are a major factor in this crisis.
In February, the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture sent H447, An act to reduce packaging waste in the Commonwealth, to House Ways & Means with a favorable report. The SSRC sent letters of support to all our legislators and to House Ways & Means last month.
Last week, cosponsor Rep. Jonathan Hecht convened a meeting at the State House to discuss the recycling crisis and figure out next steps to move H447 forward. Eight other legislators sent staff, and several other stakeholders attended (see blog post above for list).
The Environmental League of Mass., Product Stewardship Institute (PSI),and MassDEP are aware of and interested in this. PSI is working with a large group in CT on a packaging producer responsibility bill there, and in a few other states as well.
The stars may be aligning.
A bill of this magnitude needs a lot of support.
The front page article in the June 5 Boston Globe helps explain the current situation with recycling. The 3 R's have turned into the 4 R's: Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle.
Duxbury has gone to separating trash into separate categories to recycle (glass, corrugated cardboard, mixed paper, and mixed plastics), moving away from single stream recycling. This article explains the why behind that decision.