BOSTON — Environmental groups are trashing the state’s latest plan to reduce solid waste, saying it won’t go far enough to reduce the amount of materials going into landfills.
The long-awaited Solid Waste Master Plan, unveiled this week by the state Department of Environmental Protection, calls for reducing the amount of garbage Massachusetts’ sends to landfills and incinerators by at least 30% — to about 4 million tons annually — by 2030, and by 90%, or 570,000 tons, by 2050.
The plan will ban the disposal of mattresses and textiles, which environmental regulators say will mean far less potentially toxic materials being tossed out.
It also reduces the amount of organic yard and food waste businesses are allowed to dispose of to a half ton per week. The current state limit is one ton a week.
Environmental Commissioner Martin Suuberg said the plan will dramatically lower the amount of waste being disposed of and help the state meet its aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.
“This is going to take a lot more materials out of the waste stream,” he said. “And we believe these are really effective strategies for meeting our short and long term goals to reduce emissions.”
But environmental groups say the plan — which will guide the state’s solid waste reduction programs for the next decade — doesn’t go far enough.
Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, said the state needs to be more aggressive in recycling and reusing what it disposes of, if it is to meet its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
She said the solid waste plan “doesn’t turn the ship around quickly enough.”
“The vast majority of the roughly 6 million tons that goes into landfills can be diverted,” Domenitz said. “There’s a market for all this stuff but we need to build the infrastructure to accommodate it.”
MassPIRG and other members of the Zero Waste Massachusetts coalition — which includes the Conservation Law Foundation and Clean Water Action — want the state to ban disposal of yard and food waste, which account for about 30% of what the state disposes of annually.
“For years, DEP regulations have required any entity that generates more than 1 ton of this waste must divert it from disposal,” the coalition said in a statement. “We know how to ban food and yard waste completely, and this plan only gets us halfway to the goal posts.”
In 2019, Massachusetts disposed of an estimated 5.5 million tons of trash at landfills and incinerators, according to the most recent state data. That was a slight reduction from 2018, when 5.6 million tons of trash was tossed out.
Release of the plan was delayed by two years as a result of input from environmental groups and industry officials, as well as complications resulting from the pandemic.
Environmental groups note that the state is making incremental progress towards reducing solid waste, but want the process to be accelerated.
They also want state regulators to also take aggressive steps to reduce disposal of paper, cardboard, glass, metal and other items which have been banned from disposal for decades but still collectively account for 40% of the solid waste.
Suuberg said the plan requires periodic reviews to determine if the state is meeting his goals, and says it can be updated to set more aggressive goals if needed.
“We’re laying out milestones by which we will revisit some of these topics and see where we can make additional progress,” he said. “We’re going to be refining our work and expanding it as we move forward.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.