At the April 10 meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday told the Baker-Polito administration about her city’s efforts to reduce contamination rates in recycling and expressed concerns about the increasing costs that some communities are facing due to changes in global recycling markets.
 
Communities are facing significant increases in recycling costs, largely due to a policy change in China that went into effect at the beginning of 2018. The policy limits the amount of recycled material that the country will accept by imposing strict limits on the contaminants in loads of recyclables. Due to China’s new policy, most U.S. exports can no longer go to China, leading to turmoil in global recycling markets.
 
With the supply of recycled materials exceeding demand, the new Chinese policy will change the financial dynamics for cities and towns negotiating recycling contracts. Some communities are now paying more for recycling than trash, even though, not long ago, recycling was a revenue source for communities.
 
At the LGAC meeting, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg spoke about the department’s Recycling IQ Kit, designed to reduce contaminants in the residential recycling stream. The kit provides resources to help municipalities better educate residents about contaminants and how to improve the quality of recyclables. Funding is available to communities that implement the strategies in the Recycling IQ Kit.
 
Mayor Holaday spoke about the importance of working with MassDEP and using technical assistance and resources that the department provides.
 
The MMA supports further study of municipal solid waste and recycling operations and the impact of the changing markets. The MMA has opposed legislation that would impose waste reduction targets on communities and increase their administrative burdens through new requirements.
 
The MMA’s Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment has been discussing recycling markets and strategies to reduce contamination. At its April 11 meeting, the committee reaffirmed its support for the state’s bottle deposit law by taking a vote to oppose legislation that would repeal the bottle bill. The committee heard from representatives of several businesses and organizations with an interest in the bottle bill. The presenters discussed how the current law works as well as the potential economic impact of a repeal.
 
At a previous meeting, the committee voted to support a bill to expand the bottle bill to include miniature beverage containers, known as “nips.” The legislation aims to provide an incentive to recycle and reduce litter.
 

Written by MMA Legislative Analyst Victoria Sclafani