By G. Michael Dobbs
BOSTON – That discarded hot dog bun could be the source of electricity for your home in the near future.
A new law will address a reality in the disposal of waste in the Commonwealth: by October any business or municipal entity creating a ton or more of organic food waste a week must have that material brought to energy-generating and composting facilities.
The ban on simply dumping the material into landfills was announced on Jan. 31. According to information supplied by the Patrick Administration, food materials make up 25 percent of the current waste stream in the state. The Patrick Administration has set a goal of reducing the overall amount of waste material 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
Richard Sullivan, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs told Reminder Publications the state simply couldn’t have a public policy that says companies just can’t dispose of such material in a landfill either here or in another state.
The disposal ban will affect about 1,700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges, universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and food service and processing companies in the state.
Sullivan, said, “We worked closely with the larger institutions as we promulgated these regulations and put them on the street, to make these regulations smart for business so they could take food waste out of their waste stream and actually save money in their total operations. At the same time we could take that food waste use it with anaerobic digestion, build up a new industry for the clean tech sector here in Massachusetts, make sure we have facilities across the Commonwealth. We will be providing incentive programs and working closely with institutions such as the University of Massachusetts at Amherst so there is a place for anaerobic digestion to take place so we can grow jobs.
“So it is very good public policy, it is very good energy and environmental policy, but again make no mistake about it, it is also an economic development strategy in the Commonwealth,” Sullivan added.
He added there have been pilot program in Western Massachusetts at area farms, which has resulted in “a new resource or revenue stream.”
The composting of such material will create a biogas that could be used to generate electricity, provide heat to buildings and to power buses and trucks.
The state has provided a grant to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency for a pilot program on biogas production.
For some 300 supermarkets in the state, the different way to treat food waste is not new as there has been a program to separate organic material from the stores’ waste that has produced savings up top $20,000 at each location.
So far the reactions from the food industry have been good, Sullivan said.
“We have worked cooperatively with MassDEP [Department of Environmental Protection] over the years on this and other environmental initiatives, fostering a relationship with the Department that has allowed us to work with our members to have a positive environmental impact.” Massachusetts Food Association President Chris Flynn said. “This relationship is why the supermarket industry has been able to play a leadership role in establishing and maintaining food waste diversion programs well in advance of the waste ban.