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(Boston, MA) On the eve of the Commonwealth’s drafting of their next Solid Waste Master Plan, several organizations are calling for robust changes to that Plan, including a clear and enforceable commitment to policies that enact zero waste. “We cannot recycle our way out of the disposal problems in Massachusetts,” said Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG Executive Director, who provided editorial support to a national report entitled Trash in America earlier this year. “We need to turn the garbage truck around, and commit to a goal of zero waste.”
Although the Commonwealth set a goal in its 2010-2020 Master Plan of reducing disposal to 4.5 million tons a year, the most recent figures show that 5.6 million tons of waste a year are heading to incinerators and landfills, an increase from 2010. “We work with citizen groups all over the state who have lived in the shadow of incinerators and landfills and their pollution for too long,” declared Sylvia Broude, Executive Director of Toxics Action Center, a co-author of the national report. “We should be phasing out dirty disposal and working much more aggressively to get to zero waste.”
The Solid Waste Master Plan is the Commonwealth’s blueprint for dealing with waste, required by law to be issued every 10 years since 1990. Conservation Law Foundation’s Zero Waste Project Director, Kirstie Pecci, who has worked on waste reduction efforts for over a decade, commented, “The 2010-2020 Plan has been stalled and blocked by the waste industry so they can keep expanding landfills and operating incinerators. In central Massachusetts where I live, Southbridge was ‘host’ of the state’s biggest landfill. Now the Fitchburg/Westminster landfill is the biggest, which Waste Management is trying to expand by taking over 85 acres of the Leominster Forest. We need to stop expanding these dirty facilities and instead expand and enforce zero waste programs.”
Zero waste is not simply a concept, but internationally recognized public policy that emphasizes “...consuming less, reusing more, redesigning products to be long-lasting and easy to repair, recycle or compost,” according to the national report, Trash in America. Amy Perlmutter, a Massachusetts-based zero waste consultant and former Recycling Program Manager for the city and county of San Francisco said, “Zero waste is possible, many cities in our country are almost there, and the Commonwealth can get there as well if we can muster the will; put the right policies, programs, and education in place; and look at this as an economic development as well as an environmental opportunity.”
Several organizations are banding together, using the drafting of the 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan to point out the obstacles standing in the way of progress towards reducing waste, and lay out a process and plan for moving forward. “What we throw in the trash and then bury and burn often makes its way back into our bodies and all too often incinerators, landfills and transfer stations are located in communities of color or low income communities that are already overburdened by pollution and other harms," said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action. "Companies, like Wheelabrator in Saugus, that profit from the generation of trash have stood in the way of progress towards zero waste for too long."
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