New Massachusetts Regulation – Limit on Commercial Organic Material

Anaerobic digestion converts organic waste into a biogas to supply heat and power.  Photo courtesy the Univeristy of Alberta.

Anaerobic digestion converts organic waste into a biogas to supply heat and power.  Photo courtesy the Univeristy of Alberta.

Next month, the disposal of food wastes and vegetative materials in Massachusetts will change significantly. New regulations take effect on October 1 limiting the disposal of commercial organic material to less than one ton per week from a single generator location.

Although the general rule is straightforward—a generator may not dispose of more than one ton per week, per location—application of the regulations can become difficult. It’s important to remember this: the weekly threshold for a generator is site specific. For example, if a generator owns multiple businesses in different locations, the organic wastes from all of the businesses will be counted individually, not as an aggregate total. However, if a campus of buildings is under common ownership, the organic wastes from the entire campus will be counted together, as an aggregate total.  

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) will administer the regulations, which require generators of organic wastes with volumes above the threshold to divert and re-purpose the waste through a range of options including composting, animal feed operations or anaerobic digestion.

MassDEP has issued a guidance document that is helpful in navigating the myriad of disposal scenarios. The guidance also provides useful information regarding how “organic material” is defined as well as how to estimate if a facility is disposing of one ton or more of organic waste per week. 

The push behind the new regulations is the Commonwealth’s goal of reducing the state-wide waste stream by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. MassDEP estimates that nearly 25% of the current waste stream is made up of organic materials.

As always, if you have questions regarding the information in this Alert, please contact one of the following members of Verrill Dana’s Environmental Law Group: