Friday, June 6, 2014

Food Waste Disposal Bans

A recent blog entry at Waste360 has inspired me to return to my own blog, after several years of being quiet. The entry, titled "Banning Food Waste From Landfills is Noble, but Complex," is a frustrating view of waste management.

It opens by saying "too often, it’s the government’s actions that cause problems for both the industry and the citizens it claims to be helping." And, "this move is unlikely to help anybody apart from attorneys."

The purpose of environmental legislation is to protect the human and natural environment. For waste management, this has meant rules prohibiting ocean dumping and unlined pits. Modern landfills do a better job of protecting the environment because of those regulations, even though it has meant higher costs for landfill owner/operators. But government was needed to force that change to safeguard our water, air, soil, etc.

Nobody is claiming that the recent organics disposal bans in MA, VT, CT are perfect or will be easy to implement/enforce. But that's not the heart of the attack -- it's that the law challenges the status quo of waste disposal, and potentially will take business away from landfill operators.

That will only happen if the waste management industry is narrow-minded and opposed to change. The recycling and composting sectors of the waste industry have been progressive, pushing for better management of the resources in our "waste" stream. This includes better permitting for food waste composting facilities, feed-in tariffs to support anaerobic digestion, sophisticated material recycling facilities, etc.

This generates more income for the "waste" industry, just not the "traditional" means of income. Look at landfill bans on yard trimmings, which created thousands of composting facilities around the country (some owned by the giants WM, Republic, etc.), turning that material into a valuable commodity, and one that is beneficial for our soils and planet.

Change is afoot, let's show the world that the American waste industry is ready to become the resource recovery industry.

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