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October 7, 2014

Commercial food waste ban rolled out in Massachusetts

The state continued its roll-out of a first-in-the-nation commercial food waste ban aimed at increasing food donations and boosting renewable energy and composting.

“The food waste disposal ban is a critical piece of the Commonwealth’s strategy to reduce solid waste generation and support the production of clean, renewable energy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett in a release. “The ban will help us reach our aggressive goals to reduce the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.”

The new ban, regulated by MassDEP, went into effect on Oct. 1. and requires that any entity that disposes of at least one ton of organic material per week to donate or re-purpose the useable food. Remaining food waste will be sent to composting or animal-feed operations or shipped to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility, where it will be converted to clean energy.

The disposal ban affects approximately 1,700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges and universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals and nursing homes, large restaurants, and food service and processing companies. It does not affect residences.

The Gardner Ale House in Gardner, which has embraced the food waste recycling effort by instituting a program that separates the restaurant’s food waste from its other trash, was visited by state officials Monday. The restaurant’s food waste is shipped to an animal-feed operation in New Hampshire.

“Normally, a new regulation like this is not looked upon by business owners with anything but an internal cringe,” said Rick Walton, owner of the Gardner Ale House. “However, our experience at the Ale House, with the help of the Center for Eco-Technology in Florence and the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center, has been nothing but pleasant in several ways. We are cleaner, the dumpsters no longer smell and our environmental impact has been reduced. The whole process of recycling, food scraps diversion and waste minimization is now automatic to us.”

MassDEP supports food donation, composting and animal-feed operations, but also encourages the use of anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities, according to the Patrick administration. When microbes break down the materials, an energy-creating biogas is produced. The biogas can then be used to create heat for industrial processes, fed into a generator to create electricity or used in a combined heat and power system to produce both electricity and heat simultaneously.

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