In late March, I had the opportunity to present at the Massachusetts Recycling Coalition 2012 Recycling & Organics Conference & Trade Show. Members of the Massachusetts Recycling Coalition (MassRecycle) include over 350 local recycling coordinators, non-profits, individuals, and businesses involved in the recycling and organics industry. I had the pleasure of meeting some of those members and presenting during a session on packaging waste with Eric Hudson, founder of Preserve Products.
One thing at the MassRecycle event was clear: this is a group of ambitious and passionate people. Ken Kimmell, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), delivered the morning’s keynote. Kimmell outlined Massachusetts’s goals to reduce organics disposal and increase anaerobic digestion and recycling. He wants his state to be the national leader in recycling, reuse, and diversion, with a goal of 2 million tons of waste annually diverted from disposal by 2020. Kimmel plans to attack this through improved permitting processes, increased infrastructure, improved collection programs, and a gradual phase-in of disposal bans.
Waste management structures and recycling economics vary significantly across the country, with no exception in the northeast. For example, landfill fees in Massachusetts hover close to $80 per ton, while fees in the southeast are closer to $30 per ton. Waste incinerators are commonplace in the north, but not elsewhere where land is cheaper and therefore landfilling is more common.
Waste management is a complex field. I continue to ask myself, as a professional focused on product sustainability, how can I best translate my knowledge to consumers who have limited time to commit to recycling, composting, and sustainability? This is one of the motivations behind the SPC’s How2Recycle Label: communicating clear and consistent information to consumers to make it easier for them to recycle. Consumers often do not realize that they have incorrect assumptions about recycling, making the task that much more difficult, and important.