Breaking News: Massachusetts’ Food Waste Reduction Initiative Creates 900 Jobs, $175 Million Of Economic Activity

Mass DEPThe Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) today issued a report, which found that the Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Ban has created more than 900 jobs and stimulated $175 million in economic activity across the Commonwealth during the first two years of the ban. Implemented by MassDEP in 2014, the nation’s first food waste and organics ban requires any commercial organization that disposes of one ton or more a week of food waste to pull it out of the waste stream and reuse it, send it for composting or animal feed operations or use it in an anaerobic digestion facility that produces renewable energy.

“Massachusetts’ leadership has helped keep food out of landfills and incinerators, while driving the growth of innovative new Massachusetts-based businesses,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration is committed to implementing the ban by working to reduce our waste stream and support Massachusetts’ growing clean energy economy.”

“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in striving to reduce food waste,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The study findings emphasize how these efforts can create new jobs and economic opportunities, while producing clean energy and other valuable products.”

The report, conducted by ICF International, Inc. of Cambridge, assessed the economic development benefits of food waste reduction initiatives. The study compared jobs and economic activity among food waste haulers; composting, anaerobic digestion, and animal feed operations; and food rescue organizations before and after the October 1, 2014 implementation of MassDEP’s innovative commercial organics waste ban. The ban creates jobs by driving a market for alternatives to disposing of food waste in the trash.

The study, commissioned by the Baker-Polito Administration, shows that food waste haulers and processors, as well as food rescue organizations, employ 500 people directly, while supporting more than 900 jobs when accounting for indirect and induced effects. These sectors generate more than $46 million of labor income and $175 million in economic activity in the Commonwealth.

“This study highlights the innovative ways that Massachusetts businesses are helping to protect our environment while growing our economy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker Polito Administration remains dedicated to the idea that organic material is not ‘waste,’ but a resource that can be used to help feed people, improve our agricultural output, and produce clean, renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.”

Based on the survey results, Massachusetts haulers are collecting an estimated 270,000 tons of food materials annually, showing tremendous growth over Massachusetts’ baseline estimate of 100,000 tons of food waste diversion prior to implementation of the commercial organics waste ban. Jobs in this sector grew by 150 percent between 2010 and 2015, and these businesses project an additional 50 percent job growth from 2016 to 2017.

Not only has the industry grown substantially from 2010 to 2016, but food scrap haulers and processors are planning significant additional growth in facility and equipment expenditures in the year ahead, with more than $70 million in additional expenditures planned for 2016 and 2017.

“Massachusetts businesses have been able to cost-effectively reduce disposal of food and divert it to higher value uses, such as food donation, animal feed, composting and renewable energy,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The results of this study show that the ban has been both a success in reducing the waste stream and a stimulant for economic growth.”

“The Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Ban is an innovative approach to waste reduction and re-use,” said State Senator Ann Gobi, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. “As the nation’s first food waste ban, it is encouraging to see concrete data backing up the countless benefits of the program.”

“This study highlights that Massachusetts’s efforts to reduce food waste have substantial direct and indirect economic benefits,” said State Representative Paul Schmid, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. “This ban has provided organizations with opportunities to contribute to a cleaner, sustainable environment that the residents of the Commonwealth will continue to enjoy.”

The Commonwealth’s effort is now “building on the ban” through several initiatives that provide continued technical assistance and guidance to businesses and institutions through MassDEP’s RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program and continued growth in the infrastructure for managing food materials and donating more food to feed people. This is reflected in the projected continued jobs and equipment and capital investments reported on in the study. Approximately 1,700 facilities, including restaurants, hotels and conference centers, universities, supermarkets and food processors, were covered under the ban.

More information about MassDEP’s commercial food waste ban

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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