food wasteMassachusetts’ statewide commercial food waste disposal ban will take effect on Oct. 1, 2014. The ban was designed to divert food waste to energy-generating and composting facilities and reduce the state’s waste stream. Large hotels are among the estimated 1,700 facilities that will be impacted.

“We are committed to protecting our natural resources and creating jobs as the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy grows,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan in a news release. “The disposal ban is critical to achieving our aggressive waste disposal reduction goals and it is in line with our commitment to increase clean energy production.”

The ban, regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), will require any entity that disposes of at least one ton of organic material per week to donate or repurpose the useable food. Any remaining food waste will be shipped to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility, where it will be converted to energy, or sent to composting and animal feed operations.

Food materials and organics make up 25 percent of the current waste stream, making the disposal ban an important component of the Patrick administration’s strategy to reduce waste disposal, according to the news release. The ban will help Massachusetts reach an agressive goal to reduce the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

AD is a process that puts organic wastes into an enclosed chamber where microbes break down the material, producing an energy-creating biogas. The biogas that remains after the organic materials have been broken down can be put to a variety of uses. It can be used to create heat for industrial processes or fed into a generator to create electricity, or used in a combined heat and power (CHP) system to produce both electricity and heat simultaneously. Biogas can also be converted to compressed natural gas (CNG) and used to fuel vehicles like buses or trucks.

“This waste ban helps make anaerobic digestion a real winner for the Patrick administration’s energy and environmental goals,” says Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “Not only will we keep useful organic materials out of landfills, the output of the AD process will power businesses and enhance our clean energy portfolio.”

Diverting food waste for composting can result in significant savings in a hotel’s trash disposal costs. The key is to come up with a plan for collecting the waste, communicate the plan clearly to staff, and monitor the plan’s implementation.

MassDEP also established the “RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts” program to help businesses  increase recycling and comply with the Massachusetts waste disposal bans. The RecyclingWorks program provides free web-based resources and guidance, available at, includes a searchable service provider database, a phone hotline and direct technical assistance.

“This commercial food waste ban is just one more way Massachusetts continues to lead the way with solutions that not only save on energy and protect our environment, but also green up the bottom line,” says Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, senate chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “Through it, we will take another step closer towards achieving our Global Warming Solutions Act goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Massachusetts is one of several states that have banned landfill disposal of food waste from large commercial food waste generators. Others include Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, as well as West Coast cities Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. In November of last year, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a one-ton per week rule similar to Massachusetts’.

To offer compliance assistance, the Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Vendor Fair will take place June 12 in Framingham. For more information, go online to