The long-anticipated ban on disposal of commercial food waste — along with funding to support anaerobic digestion (AD) — was formally announced on July 10 by officials in the Massachusetts’ Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). “Banning commercial food waste and supporting development of AD facilities across the Commonwealth is critical to achieving our aggressive waste disposal reduction goals,” said EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan. “These policies and programs will continue the Patrick Administration’s commitment to growing the clean energy sector in Massachusetts, creating jobs and reducing emissions.” The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has proposed a commercial food waste ban (in public comment period now), to take effect by July 1, 2014, that would require any entity that disposes of at least one ton of organic waste per week to donate or repurpose the useable food. Any remaining food waste would be required to be shipped to an AD facility, a composting operation or an animal feed operation. Residential food waste is not included in the ban.
To tap the energy in organic waste, the Patrick Administration has made $3 million in low-interest loans available to private companies building AD facilities. The loans will be administered by BCD Capital through MassDEP’s Recycling Loan Fund, with monies provided by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). DOER is also making $1 million available in grants for AD to public entities through MassDEP’s Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant Program. MassDEP and DOER have awarded the first AD grant of $100,000 to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency (MWRA) for its wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. A pilot project will introduce food waste into one of the 12 digester tanks at the WWTP facility to evaluate the effects of codigestion on operations and biogas production. (This DOER funding comes from compliance payments made by electric retail suppliers that have insufficient Renewable Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable Portfolio Standard programs.) To ensure that there will be sufficient facilities in Massachusetts to handle the waste resulting from the ban, MassDEP is working with the Massachu-setts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to conduct feasibility studies to build AD facilities on state-owned land. BioCycle published a 3-part article series starting in December 2012 on the proposed ban, new state regulations to facilitate development of processing infrastructure, and an assessment of existing processing capacity.