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Food waste ban signals bold innovation step

Posted by Chad O'Connor  November 14, 2013 11:00 AM

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Once again leading the nation by example, Massachusetts is the first state in the US to ban businesses from putting organics (generally food and plant waste) in the trash. With a staggering food waste problem just starting to be addressed in the US, eyes are on Massachusetts as we change a problem into a job creating, energy producing, and money saving opportunity.

20 to 25% of the state landfill waste is made up of food waste and organics, with tens of millions metric tons of food waste being produced annually across the nation. Organic waste produces methane, which is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a big factor in climate change. Massachusetts has implemented the ban as a means to help reach the Commonwealth’s waste stream reduction goals, of 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. It is estimated that compliance with the regulations will divert several hundred thousand tons of waste from entering our landfills (about the same environmental effect as taking 41,000 cars off the road)*.

The Ban, which goes into effect July 2014, currently applies to those businesses that dispose of one ton or more organic waste per week, mainly large food operations, venues, grocery stores, schools/colleges, hospitals, large restaurants, etc. Those businesses must donate, re-purpose, or compost as much waste as they can and the remainder must be sent to an Anaerobic Digester facility.

Along with this ban, the state is making $4million in funding available to innovate in the creation of sustainable energy via Anaerobic Digesters, which are facilities that use microbes to break down food waste, yard waste, and other organics and convert them to heat and electricity. AD facilities in Massachusetts are a growing market with a shown history of job creation in the past few years and a way to make our waste work for us.

Eliminating food and organic waste is not a new thing in Massachusetts. Several notable businesses had already been exercising these measures and reaping rewards for their efforts. Big Y supermarkets have been implementing food waste reduction measures since the 1990s. Fenway Park began commercial composting in 2011 and several innovative businesses and non-profits in the state have popped up to start addressing food waste issues.*

While only the largest venues are subject to the law, the regulations are a good guideline for any business and the Red Sox have shown us that you can bolster your bottom line in the process. Businesses get a tax deduction for donations to non-profits while at the same time reducing their waste costs. Many farms and other organizations will haul the waste away for free and if any remains, the cost for composting or hauling waste to an AD is usually equivalent to the cost companies are already paying to haul away their trash. Plus, don’t forget the good will you get from customers! The current law, if successful, will likely expand to include smaller food producers, so at the risk of being hipster….Get on board before it is cool.

The state has published a guide to reducing food waste that gives great action steps and resources for any size business to implement these changes, including:
1. Conduct a food waste audit for your business, so that you have a baseline to start with.
2. Change your ordering/purchasing process to prevent a food surplus.
3. Donate food to organizations such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which picks up and delivers food to shelters and soup kitchens, or donate directly to the shelter.
4. Donate to farmers or zoos for animal feed. Myrtle the Turtle eats a lot of greens. Help a turtle out.
5. Check into composting companies, like Bootstrap Compost and Save that Stuff (serving both commercial and residential customers). They can haul the waste for you and match (or be less than) your cost to haul trash to the landfill.

Save Money, Save the Planet, but most importantly, let’s show other states how it’s done.

Jessica R. Manganello, Esq. is a business attorney with New Leaf Legal, LLC. Her focus is on sustainable and social minded businesses, with a passion for food and building a local economy.

*Sourced from Greenbiz.com, Dana Gunders

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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