MMA letter to senators opposes bill to impose new solid waste standards and reporting requirements

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Dear Senator,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing in opposition to S. 2308, An Act Relative to Recycling. While the intent of S. 2308 is laudable, the measure would clearly place a new unfunded mandate on cities and towns, primarily by imposing a set of solid waste “performance standards” on communities and instituting new annual reporting requirements. The bill includes no funding to pay for these mandates, and also omits any tangible technical assistance to help communities. As you know, Proposition 2½ strictly caps local revenues, and thus new unfunded mandates, no matter how well-intentioned, force cities and towns to cut funding for other important public services and programs. That is why Proposition 2½ includes a ban on new unfunded mandates.

Municipalities have made enormous progress in reducing solid waste and increasing recycling programs throughout the state, but the new requirements in S. 2308 would be a costly new mandate on cities and towns. Most communities across the Commonwealth have built recycling and reuse facilities in an effort to increase recycling rates. Communities have also implemented automated curbside pickup and instituted unit based pricing for waste collection, commonly known as “pay-as-you-throw,” to incentivize recycling. In fact, 90 percent of municipalities now provide comprehensive recycling programs for their residents. 

S. 2308 would direct the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection to establish performance standards for the reduction of municipal solid waste and lays out specific standards of not more than 600 pounds per capita by July 1, 2018 and not more than 450 pounds per capita by July 1, 2022. The bill would require municipalities to report information on solid waste disposal annually. If a community is not able to meet the performance standards by July 1, 2018, cities and towns must explain why they did not meet the standards and detail a plan to achieve the standards by July 1, 2022. 

Cities and towns are already working hard as stewards of the environment, but this bill would establish one-size-fits-all standards that could be unrealistic for many cities and towns to meet. In order to increase recycling rates and reduce solid waste, municipalities need the flexibility to determine what system is best for their particular community and should receive adequate funding from the state to institute comprehensive programs. Reporting requirements are difficult to comply with, especially for smaller communities that have limited staff.

Several Senators have filed amendments to address a number of these issues, including preventing new unfunded mandates on communities, providing for more reasonable and flexible standards, developing a funding source, and eliminating the new reporting requirements. Please support Amendments #2, #3, #4, #8, #10, and #13

The most effective way to reduce the amount of solid waste in Massachusetts is to reduce the volume of trash that enters the waste stream. S. 2308 contains no provisions to have producers take responsibility for this issue in any way. The MMA and local officials have long supported, and will continue to support, producer responsibility legislation to reduce solid waste at its source. Removing trash at the beginning of the waste stream is far more effective than mandating taxpayers to deal with the problem at end of the waste stream. We look forward to working with the Senate on this more preferable, cost-effective and environmentally beneficial approach. In the meantime, we ask you to amend S. 2308 to ensure that it does not place a new burden on cities and towns.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO