MACo: Mattress Recycling Needs Collaborative Solution, Not a County Mandate

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp voiced concerns over a mattress and box spring recycling, littering, and job creation mandate before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 21. The legislation, HB 850, was sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill.

HB 850 would require a county to include a strategy for managing the disposal of mattresses and box springs in their recycling plan by October 1, 2019. The strategy must include: (1) eliminating the disposal of mattresses and box springs from landfills and incinerators; (2) preventing the dumping of mattresses and box springs; (3) recycling mattresses and box springs; and (4) promoting related business and social programs that create jobs for unemployed, homeless, disabled, or formerly incarcerated individuals and disadvantaged youths. The Maryland Department of the Environment would provide technical support but no financial support.

Hill described the recycling, disposal, and litter challenges posed by mattresses and box springs and stated that programs like the one run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Lane County, Oregon, could successfully address these challenges.

Knapp agreed that mattresses and box springs are a “problem” waste stream items but argued that simply imposing a costly unfunded mandate on the counties would not solve the problem. Knapp also noted that the General Assembly has largely rejected the local mandate approach in addressing other problem items for the last decade. From the MACo testimony:

MACo acknowledges that mattresses and box springs are a “problem” item in the waste stream, being difficult to recycle and challenging to collect for disposal. However, the bill’s requirements would be very difficult for counties to meet. First, the bill would impose a costly new mandate on county governments. As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, county expenditures increase, potentially significantly just to implement the bill’s disposal and recycling requirements. …

Second, the mandate imposed by the bill is counter to the General Assembly’s recycling approach that has been in place for more than a decade. Recognizing the complexity of dealing with problem waste stream items like mattresses and box springs, the General Assembly has worked with counties and manufacturers to create comprehensive solutions for these items.

For example, the State has provided funding assistance to assist with the recycling of electronic items. For other items, the General Assembly has allowed a county to count pre-existing private recycling programs as part of the county’s recycling efforts. The General Assembly has also explored making product manufacturers or sellers responsible for their products. For a product with little recycling or diversion potential, the General Assembly has considered banning the product. Finally, for extremely complex items like food and organic waste, Maryland has created inclusive and comprehensive task forces to create workable recycling or waste diversion policies.

Knapp suggested that a better solution would be to consider a manufacturer program or a comprehensive task force.

The Sierra Club, Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Trash Free Maryland testified in support of the bill. The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington testified in opposition to the bill.

HB 850 has no Senate cross-file.

Useful Links

HB 850 of 2018

MACo Testimony on HB 850

Delegate Terri Hill Webpage