Trash debate coming to head on Beacon Hill
With time running out, House pitches waste commission
WITH MASSACHUSETTS RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS to bury and burn its trash, the long-neglected issue of recycling is getting some attention in the final days of the 2015-2016 legislative session.
The Senate approved a sweeping measure at the end of June requiring cities and towns to reduce the amount of solid waste they dispose of to 600 pounds per capita by July 1, 2018, and 450 pounds by July 1, 2022.
The House took no action on the Senate’s bill until Thursday, when the Ways and Means Committee gutted the Senate bill and in its place proposed the creation of a 13-member commission to report by Sept. 1, 2017, on the best way to attain the goal of 450 pounds of trash per capita. The measure has yet to go before the full House.
The two branches now find themselves far apart ideologically on what to do about the state’s growing trash problem with just one day (Tuesday) left in the session. If no bill is approved by both branches on Tuesday, the House and Senate will have to start from scratch in the next legislative session. That’s what happened in the previous two, two-year legislative sessions.
Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton, who has pressed for the municipal solid waste standard, said he would review the House bill on Tuesday, consult with colleagues, and then determine the best course of action.
Stephen Lisauskas, vice president at WasteZero, a North Andover company that helps municipalities reduce their trash output and boost recycling efforts, said the proposed House study fell short of what he was hoping to see from the Legislature. But he said the creation of a solid waste commission may make sense as a way to focus attention on an issue that has been largely ignored by the Legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection.
“To me, as an outsider, it seems this is the best that can be done right now,” he said.Almost half of Massachusetts cities and towns already dispose of less than 600 pounds of trash per capita and nearly a quarter dispose of less than 450 pounds per capita. Yet there are a number of municipalities that still generate more than 600 pounds of trash per capita, including Springfield (739 pounds per capita), Lowell (736), Andover (784), Braintree (828), Lawrence (847), Billerica (659), Needham (684), and New Bedford (603).
Boston has shown improvement in recent years, with the city currently disposing of 585 pounds of solid waste per capita.