Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Daniel Cahill, House Chair
The Honorable Rebecca Rausch, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Cahill, Chair Rausch, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) is pleased to offer its support for several bills at today’s hearing of the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The challenges currently facing waste management systems across the Commonwealth are pressing, and our members recognize the need for creative, dependable solutions. Several of these solutions form the basis of the bills currently pending before the Committee.
This session, the MMA continues to support product stewardship legislation, to require that manufacturers be held responsible for their products’ end-of-life recycling needs. Compared to relying solely on municipal waste management solutions, product stewardship can strengthen incentives for producers to incorporate environmental considerations into packaging and product designs. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a form of product stewardship that would be required for certain products or materials.
Over the past decade, cities and towns in the Commonwealth have seen significant increases to the cost of their solid waste and recycling contracts. These costs threaten local budgets and the financial sustainability of waste and recycling programs in Massachusetts, especially for resource-challenged communities. Municipalities continue to rise to the challenge to provide these services while navigating a changing regulatory landscape focused on waste reduction at the source, beneficial reuse, and increased recycling, despite a lack of financial accountability by the manufacturers whose products generate this waste.
Extended producer responsibility is one lever to institute accountability and bolster recycling opportunities statewide. Today, the Massachusetts Municipal Association wishes to affirm its support for several extended producer responsibility bills that the Committee will consider this session.
The MMA strongly supports H. 823 and S. 551, An Act relative to paint recycling, as well as S. 542, An Act establishing safe paint stewardship. EPR programs for paint have demonstrated that leftover, unwanted paint can be safely and sustainably diverted from waste streams with an added cost-saving benefit for municipalities. Paint recycling, when made accessible to all residents in Massachusetts, will help to reduce disposal costs for municipalities and minimize pollution and mismanagement of paint. H. 823, S. 551, and S. 542 are consistent with paint stewardship programs established in 10 states across the nation, including Maine, Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. This legislation will allow Massachusetts to join this existing network that supports paint recycling and take advantage of the benefits: states with EPR for paint have reused or recycled more than 70% of latex paint collected, saving taxpayers nearly $300 million to date.
The MMA also supports several bills which would institute extended producer responsibility for mattresses. H. 881, An Act to establish a mattress recycling program in the Commonwealth, as well as H. 916 and S. 513, An Act to assess the future of mattress recycling in the Commonwealth, would bolster mattress recycling systems statewide. While the MassDEP waste ban on mattresses sparked the development of mattress recycling facilities across the state, it has also highlighted the disparities residents encounter in their efforts to recycle these bulky items. Extended producer responsibility for mattresses can be a solution that responds to municipal concerns about varied and patchwork pricing, service gaps where residents are left to the private market for recycling services, and a lack of stable municipal funding to support new recycling programs and contracts. EPR would help streamline this system, while standardizing costs across the Commonwealth.
The MMA is pleased to offer its support for H. 779 and S. 572, An Act to save recycling costs in the Commonwealth, and S. 471, An Act to reduce waste and recycling costs in the Commonwealth. These bills would establish a comprehensive EPR system for packaging whereby the established producer responsibility organization would reimburse municipal recycling costs for packaging materials, help to capture recyclable materials in proper streams, and avoid contamination which is a common strain on curbside systems. With packaging representing a significant and growing share of the solid waste system, these bills will be an essential part of applying EPR concepts to meet our solid waste reduction goals. EPR for packaging can include outreach and education campaigns which foster best practices in recycling for future generations while strengthening the skills of recyclers across the Commonwealth.
We support H. 871 and S. 554, An Act to require producer responsibility for collection, reuse and recycling of discarded electronic products. Electronics such as computers, televisions, printers, and similar devices contain many recyclable components. Instituting EPR for these products can help incentivize producers to create longer lasting, more sustainable products and build support for repairing, rather than replacing, fixable products. Further, many e-waste products contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and PVC, which leach into our environment when these products are put into landfills instead of being recycled. Several states have already found great success with EPR for e-waste. As one example, Washington’s program diverted 200 million pounds of electronics in just the first five years of its operation, sending only 2% of waste collected to landfills.
Product stewardship, specifically extended producer responsibility, has been signaled by the MassDEP as a legislative strategy to address solid waste challenges. Both the 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan and the 2021 Reduce & Reuse Action Plan list EPR as a way to further support waste source reduction, a necessary lever to reach the Commonwealth’s solid waste reduction goals. We stand ready to act as a resource for further development and advancement of these important pieces of legislation.
We continue to support additional bills relating to solid waste and recycling, including H. 767 and S. 525 on single-use plastics and H. 784 and S. 477 on plastic bag reduction. Local bylaws and ordinances have long identified single-use plastic bags as a material that gets caught in recycling machinery, leading to breakdowns, delays and increased costs, which are passed down to municipalities. The creation of a statewide policy on plastic bags and the institution of a small fee for the sale of paper bags would benefit our environment and our recycling infrastructure by incentivizing more sustainable, reusable options. H. 767 and S. 525 also go beyond plastic bags to include phasing out polystyrene and miniature alcohol bottles, measures supported by the MMA and its membership for several years.
More structured, ongoing support is needed to bolster local recycling infrastructure across the Commonwealth. We can meet these challenges with targeted, reinforcing solutions that address the full lifecycle of products. Extended producer responsibility is a mechanism to do this work, and pursuing it would benefit the Commonwealth, municipalities, and all the residents we serve.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony on these bills and encourage the Committee to advance them with a favorable report. If you have any questions or desire further information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Josie Ahlberg at email@example.com at any time.
Thank you very much for your consideration and support of local government.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO