Maryland recently became the latest among a growing number of states that require businesses to recycle food residuals with the passage of HB264/SB483, Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion in the 2021 legislation session.
Summary of New Requirements
Beginning January 1, 2023, commercial entities that generate more than 2 tons per week of food residuals and are located within 30 miles of an organics recycling facility will be required to separate and divert food residuals away from final disposal in landfills and incinerators.
Business Required to Comply
Entities impacted by the new legislation are those that:
- Generate at least 2 tons of food residuals per week on or after January 1, 2023
- Generate at least 1 ton of food residuals per week on or after January 1, 2024
- Are located within a 30–mile radius of an organics recycling facility
- Private food waste generators
- Individual facilities owned or operated by local school systems
- Individual public primary or secondary school an individual nonpublic school
- Supermarket, Convenience Stores, Mini–Mart, or similar establishments
- Businesses, schools, or institutional cafeterias and
- Cafeterias operated by or on behalf of the state or a local government
Penalties for Non-Compliance
A person who violates any rule or regulation adopted under this section will be subject to a penalty, to be collected in a civil action brought by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE). Each day a violation occurs is considered a separate violation. Penalties collected must be distributed to a special fund, to be used only for financial incentives that encourage food waste reduction and composting in the state.
What is considered “food residuals?”
Food residuals are defined by this legislation as material derived from the processing or discarding of food, including pre-and post-consumer vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products and meats.
The Maryland Department of Commerce is required by this legislation to report to the General Assembly on or before implementation on January 1, 2023, recommendations for financial and other incentives that support companies with food waste reduction and diversion costs.
Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is an environmentally sound and cost-effective solution that addresses the need for increased organics recycling capacity in the state of Maryland. Bioenergy Devco’s Jessup facility, the first anaerobic digestor of its scale in the state, will be fully operational by Q4 2021 and available for organic waste producers and haulers looking to reserve capacity ahead of the law’s initial implementation in 2023.
BDC is actively exploring the development of additional facilities in other parts of the state to meet the growing demand for organics recycling.
Why organics recycling and diversion?
The MDE estimates that Maryland food manufacturers and processors produce up to 998,630 tons of excess food waste per year. Most reports suggest that between 30%-40% of food is wasted along the supply chain. Only 5% of food waste is currently diverted to compost or anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities. As a result, food waste is often the first or second-largest component of the municipal solid waste stream, typically disposed of through unsustainable means such as incineration or crowded landfills.
Food waste has significant impacts on the environment and the economy. Disposing of organic food waste in landfills and incinerators is a major contributor to climate change. Burning food waste produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gases (GHGs) that adversely affect the environment. Food waste decomposes in landfills to produce methane, which is at least 80 times more potent than CO2.
As awareness of the problem has grown, federal, state, and local governments have explored policy avenues to reduce and manage food waste. At the state level, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and New Jersey have passed laws related to diverting food waste from landfills. Promoting organic recycling infrastructure, like anaerobic digestion, allows waste to be repurposed into truly renewable natural gas and organic soil amendment that improves the soil, water and air quality in our communities.