12,000 Bay Staters Tell DEP: Enforce the Waste Bans


In just over one month’s time, the consumer advocacy group MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group) has collected over 12,000 signatures calling on Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell to sign a pledge to crack down on violators of Massachusetts’ longstanding waste bans. Although data about violations is incomplete, estimates show that close to two million tons of these banned-from-disposal materials, like paper, cardboard, glass, and metal are incinerated and buried each year, causing pollution and threatening public health.

The proposed pledge reads:

“We (DEP) are aware that almost half of all waste disposed of in landfills and incinerators is banned by our own regulations. We will enforce these regulations to the fullest extent of the law, and reduce the violations by 50% within a year (by 9/1/2014), and an additional 50% in the second year, for a total of 75% reduction after 2 years.”

The push to enforce the bans began right after the DEP announced on May 7 that it would be “modifying” the 23-year ban on construction of new incinerators. The DEP cited this move as necessary due to a decreasing amount of available landfill space in Massachusetts. But a significant amount of the material piling up in Massachusetts’ landfills is actually banned under DEP’s own regulations. To put this in perspective, according to MASSPIRG research based on DEP’s figures, enough cardboard will be thrown away this summer to fill Fenway Park to the green monster seats. Cardboard is one of several types of materials banned from disposal, largely because of its recyclability.

Additionally, research shows that enforcing the DEP’s waste bans would divert anywhere from 34.5-58% of current annual waste from landfills and incinerators. The waste ban regulations were created by the DEP in the 1990’s to prevent the disposal of several easily recycled materials such as glass, metal and wood, as well as particularly toxic products and materials. (Waste bans can be found here.) Although there is significant evidence of large-scale violations of these waste bans, the DEP has only issued a handful of penalties over the past few years.

MASSPIRG will continue to urge Commissioner Kimmell to sign its pledge in an effort to reduce waste disposal overall.

“Incinerator and landfill operators are flouting the law, and they will continue to do so until there are consequences for their actions,” commented Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We’re hoping our campaign puts them on notice that business as usual—i.e. lack of enforcement—is about to end.”