Would you believe it if I told you that it wouldn’t take much to reduce the annual trash produced in Massachusetts by 70% in just 7 years?
On Sept. 20, almost 90 people from communities across the state tuned in to hear Conservation Law Foundations’s Zero Waste project director Kirstie Pecci lay out the way to get there in her presentation “From Costly Waste to Zero Waste,” an event hosted by the Zero Waste Team of Brookline Mothers Out Front.
Kirstie explained that our current waste systems (think: incinerators and landfills) are big contributors to climate-damaging emissions and toxic air and water pollution. It is simply impossible to recycle our way out of our trash crisis.
Instead we need to phase out polluting trash systems and replace them with non-toxic, sustainable alternatives. To do this, we must pursue Zero Waste policies, which aim to REDUCE the amount of waste we throw away, RETHINK how our trash and materials are designed and managed, REFILL/COMPOST instead of dispose, and RECYCLE paid for by those who produce the products. We also need accurate DATA COLLECTION to better understand the current trash/recycling situation and target areas for improvement,
States across the country are making incremental progress in these areas. Most noteworthy is that Maine and Oregon recently passed the first producer responsibility laws for packaging in the country. Learn more about producer responsibility laws here.
In Massachusetts, our top three Zero Waste legislative priorities are 1) expanding the bottle bill (sadly, to this day, enormous amounts of glass ends up in landfills and incinerators), 2) the producer responsibility for packaging bill and 3) the omnibus plastics bill. Zero Waste team members have testified at the statehouse committee hearings for all of these bills this year!
In addition to passing these important new bills, Kirstie noted we need to ENFORCE the laws already on the books. As an example, Massachusetts law bans cardboard, paper, commercial food waste, aluminum and glass from going into the waste system, yet over 40% of our total waste (over 2 million tons annually) is made up of these banned materials.
So, how do we reduce our trash by 70% in 7 years? According to Kristie, it’s as simple as enforcing the laws already on the books and maximizing recycling and composting. We should be able to do that. More accurately, we MUST do it…and soon.
Written By Karen Kraut, member of the Zero Waste Team of Brookline Mothers Out Front.