Counties Raise “Zero Waste” Concerns

On March 5, MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp, Cecil County Solid Waste Division Chief Pete Bieniek, and Harford County Recycling Deputy Director Tom Hilton testified in opposition to SB 799, a proposed “zero waste”  bill that would impose new recycling and waste diversion mandates on county governments. The goal of the bill would be to increase recycling and significantly reduce waste going into landfills.  Instead, non-recycled waste would be diverted through reuse, composting, anaerobic digestion, and waste to energy.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo has been part of a stakeholder group that has been working on the provisions of SB 799 for the last several weeks.

As part of his testimony, Mr. Knapp stated that consideration of a zero waste policy for Maryland was a worthwhile endeavor and thanked the bill’s sponsor, Senator “Mac” Middleton, for his ongoing efforts to recognize and address county concerns.  Mr. Knapp noted that MACo would continue to participate in any stakeholder discussions and identified nine key areas of concern that MACo believes must be addressed before a zero waste policy can be implemented.  The nine key areas included:

  1. Setting realistic recycling and waste diversion goals that account for the unique challenges of each county
  2. Removing a proposed compliance penalty for counties unable to meet the bill’s recycling or waste diversion goals
  3. Identification of revenue sources for necessary infrastructure upgrades and acknowledge of siting challenges
  4. Recognition of outstanding county debt and investments in landfills
  5. Ensuring that emerging waste diversion technologies are not unintentionally stifled by the bill’s requirements
  6. Creation of a better recycling reporting system to capture the efforts of municipalities and private recyclers
  7. Consideration of a clear and precise definition of “municipal solid waste”
  8. Clarification on how the bill’s provisions will interact with existing county comprehensive solid waste management plan requirements
  9. Discussion of the appropriate role of commercial and retail recycling requirements

MACo will be meeting on March 11 with the bill’s sponsor to determine next steps regarding the bill.