Senator Saviello, Representative Welsh, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1578—but I do have some concerns and suggested amendments that I hope the committee will consider.
As I gathered information to prepare this testimony, I became increasingly aware of our state’s shortcomings in regards to solid waste management. We are lagging behind our neighboring states in managing organic waste, we have unreliable recycling data, and we offer very minimal State resources to assist municipalities and businesses with materials management. I believe that many of the provisions in LD 1578 have been a long time coming and will move the state forward, and I strongly urge the Committee to pass this bill so that we don’t fall even further behind.
My comments are organized by section and I have attached suggested bill amendments and other information to my testimony. My suggested bill amendments, however, may be subject to change after hearing testimony from others today.
Section 1: Stewardship program for small batteries
More than five billion consumer type single-use or rechargeable batteries are bought in the U.S. each year and most of them end up in landfills or incinerators. Many rechargeable batteries contain toxic materials, and almost all batteries can be recycled, but consumers are often confused about how to dispose of their used batteries. And they are eager for an easy and convenient solution. We are pleased that the battery industry has come forward with a proposed stewardship program that is inclusive of all battery types. This is essential to make the program less confusing for the consumer and more fair for the manufacturers funding the program. However, NRCM believes that the program’s effectiveness can be improved by including convenience standards and performance goals that are aligned with our existing product stewardship framework law (38 MRS § 1776); and we strongly urge the committee to remove the proposed repeal date. Specific language suggestions are attached, and we outline them here in order of importance. We recommend the following:
- Section 1, subsection 18, Repeal: Strike the repeal date for this program and replace with a requirement that DEP report in 2025 on whether the program should be repealed, and give authority for this committee to introduce legislation based on that recommendation.
- Section 1, subsection 3, Submission of Plan: Require that the battery manufacturers meet a minimum convenience standard, similar to what is provided in the paint stewardship program. In that program (38 MRS § 2144.2.E), the plan must provide that at least 90% of state residents have a permanent paint collection site within a 15-mile radius of their residences, unless the commissioner determines that the 90% requirement is not practicable due to geographic constraints.
- Section 1, subsection 3, Submission of Plan: Require that battery manufacturers establish performance standards and collection goals as part of the plan, similar to what is required in our other product stewardship programs (38 MRS § 1776).
- Section 1, subsection 4, Approval of Plan: Allow the Department to have authority to require revisions to the plan after five years to address any specifically identified deficiencies.
- Section 1, subsection 13, Reporting: Require that battery manufacturers assess the program’s performance and include that information in their annual report, including a third party evaluation of education and outreach methods (not just a description) and recommendations for improvement.
- Consider requiring an administrative fee by the battery manufacturers to DEP, similar to our paint stewardship program. In California, the State annually recovers costs incurred in administration from the battery manufacturers. In Vermont, the battery manufacturers pay the State a flat fee of $15,000 each year.
Section 2: State Recycling Goal
NRCM believes that our state goals in 38 MRS §2132 should reflect our Solid Waste Management hierarchy, which prioritizes waste reduction and establishes that landfilling is the last resort. While it’s important to recycle and compost as large a percentage of our waste as possible—Maine’s ultimate goal should be to reduce the total amount of waste that we are creating and sending to the landfill. We also believe that this is an appropriate time for the Committee to scrutinize how we calculate our state recycling rate, and institute mandatory reporting of recycling to DEP so that we may get more reliable data. As such, in addition to moving our goal date for 50% recycling to 2021, our suggested revisions to 38 MRS §2132 are as follows:
- Revise 1-A of our state goals to be a state waste disposal reduction goal, and aim for reductions in both total waste disposed of at all disposal facilities, and total waste disposed per capita. These are easy calculations that get to the heart of the waste hierarchy. An inherent problem with the current waste reduction goal is that it can’t take account of waste reduction and reuse measures that reduce waste separate from recycling activities.
- Institute mandatory recycling reporting to DEP, similar to a law just passed in Michigan. Currently, recycling reporting in Maine is voluntary and inconsistent. A reporting requirement would streamline recycling reporting and give us a more accurate estimate of our recycling rate (Michigan law and bill summary are attached).
- Further, we don’t believe that burning of construction and demolition debris at a waste-to-energy facility or used as daily cover at a landfill should constitute recycling for purposes of reaching our recycling goal.
Section 3: Commercial food waste composting requirement
We believe that establishing a commercial food recovery requirement is the single-most important aspect of LD 1578. Maine is falling far behind our neighboring states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island by not having yet instituted a commercial food recovery requirement for large generators. NRCM has reviewed this issue carefully, learned from the experience in other states, and we believe that that the time is ripe to move forward with a proposal in Maine. We have widespread support from stakeholders to move forward on policies that address organic waste, adequate and growing infrastructure to process the materials, and we will benefit by learning from our neighbors. Attachments to support my testimony include additional information on this subject, including a comparison of similar laws across New England; a map of currently licensed and operating food and fish scrap composting facilities in Maine; and examples of how to estimate if a commercial establishment would be subject to this law. Our specific suggestions for how to improve the language in LD 1578 are as follows:
- Begin by establishing that it is a policy of the State to abide by the Food Recovery Hierarchy—which prioritizes the prevention of surplus food at the source, and then feeding people or animals, followed by digestion of food scraps for energy and composting. The current language in LD 1578 focuses on composting, which is great, but Maine shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture when it comes to food waste. The U.S. wastes 40% of the food we produce; and Maine ranks 12th in the nation and first in New England for food insecurity. Making sure we reach the uppermost rungs of the Food Recovery Hierarchy, and putting it in statute, are very important.
- Revise the title to be “Commercial food recovery requirement,” which supports the notion of the Food Recovery Hierarchy.
- Section 3, Subsection 2(B): Redefine the geographic exemption of “within 20 miles of a composting facility” to be “within 40 road miles of a composting facility.” This change would clear up confusion over whether the geographic exemption is as the crow flies, or miles traveled. Limiting the miles traveled is the intent of the geographic exemption.
- Section 3, Subsection 3: Revise the waiver section to instead allow exceptions for small quantities of food residuals to be to be disposed of, rather than a broadly defined ability to opt out of participation altogether. The Vermont and Massachusetts laws provide good examples, and I’ve attached some suggested language for your consideration.
Section 5: Maine Composting and Recycling Grant and Low-Interest Loan Program Establishment of this fund will solidify the State’s commitment to reaching our recycling and waste disposal reduction goals. NRCM is comfortable with the broad nature of eligibility and priorities, so long as the funds are utilized to manage the “Commercial food recovery requirement” as well. We do, however, have serious concerns with these two aspects:
- Section 5, Subsection 7: Strike this line: For purposes of this subsection, the use of construction and demolition debris as fuel in industrial boilers or waste-to-energy facilities for the generation of heat, steam, or electricity constitutes recycling. We do not believe that this fund should be used to increase the amount of material burned in waste-to-energy facilities because that is inconsistent with the hierarchy, and it is not recycling. We understand that there is precedent for considering the burning of C&D material in waste-to-energy facilities as recycling when calculating our state recycling rate, and we disagree with that notion on principal as well. Nothing being burned or buried in our State should constitute recycling.
- Section 5, Subsection 8. Repeal. Strike the repeal date for this program and instead require DEP to report in 2026 on whether to repeal, and give authority for this committee to introduce legislation based on that recommendation.
Section 7: Fees
Our position on this section is conditional and depends on what the committee decides to do with MSW fees in Section 8. When combined, the changes proposed in both Section 7 and Section 8 will lead to increased costs for waste-to-energy facilities because they will be charged for tons of waste delivered to the facility, rather than the ash disposed of after processing, as they currently do. Striking the fees for ash and front-end-processing residue only makes sense if the facilities are charged for the waste being delivered there instead. We would only support the changes proposed in Section 7 if delivering municipal solid waste to a waste to energy was $1/ton, and delivering MSW directly to a landfill was $2/ton or more, rather than $1/ton as proposed in Section 8 of LD 1578. However, if the committee decides to keep the proposed fee for landfilling MSW at $1/ton, then NRCM supports keeping the fees on ash and front-end-processing residue as is currently written in statute.
Section 8: MSW fees
We believe that Maine’s current solid waste fee structure needs to be revised because the fees do not align with the hierarchy, but the changes proposed in LD 1578 are problematic as written. Specifically, the proposed fees do not align with the hierarchy either, particularly the new fee proposed for composting. We strongly believe that composting should be exempt from fees. In the table below, NRCM has provided three alternative options for fees that do align with the hierarchy, and the corresponding amount of fees generated, and we could be supportive of any of these combinations. Keep in mind that the fees generated will hopefully decrease overtime as we become more successful at reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting our materials. Numbers used in the table below are from DEP’s most recent waste generation and capacity report.
|2012 Tonnage Disposed of at WTE or Landfill (tons)||Current Fees ($1 on Ash and FEPR; $2 on some landfills)||As Proposed ($1 on all)||Alternative option #1 ($1 for WTE; $2 for landfill)||Alternative option #2 ($1 for ash; $1 for landfill)||Alternative option #3 ($1 on Ash; $2 for landfill)|
|MSW delivered to Landfill||237,543||$1,735||$237,543||$475,086||$237,543||$475,086|
|MSW delivered Waste-to-Energy (minus ash)||354,957||$ 354,957||$354,957|
|Ash delivered to Landfill||121,213||$121,213||$121,213||$121,213||$121,213||$121,213|
|TOTAL FEES GENERATED||$122,948||$713,713||$951,256||$358,756||$596,299|
|25% for DEP administration||$178,428||$237,814||$89,689||$ 149,075|
Section 11: Returnable beverage container rules
We believe that adding Maine-produced blueberry juice and apple cider containers to the bottle bill may make sense, but we need more information before we take a position.
Section 12: Beneficial use rules; fuel quality standards
NRCM urges the committee not to amend the fuel quality standards as proposed in this section, and instead request an evaluation of the testing methods to gain better understanding. In a recent visit to ReEnergy, I learned that the testing methods for chromated copper arsenate treated wood may give false-positives, because the test is for copper only and not all copper is associated with arsenic. We cannot speak to the accuracy of the testing methods, but believe this issue would be best served by further review and urge the committee not to amend the rules at this time. We also learned that ReEnergy does not have problems meeting the current #4 minus fines standard so we are unsure how lowering the toxicity standard for the fines would be to their benefit. NRCM is not supportive of increasing the lead content of material burned in biomass facilities. Increasing the probability of human exposure to lead is never a good idea.
Section 13: Food waste composting pilot programs
NRCM is supportive of composting pilot programs, but asks the committee to clarify whether this section applies to only new composting pilot projects or can include existing ones. DEP has a variety of ongoing projects that fit the descriptions listed in LD 1578, and NRCM believes that they should be considered part of this proposed program. We also suggest that the committee revise the program to be called “food waste scrap composting program, or “food waste residual composting program.”
Thank you so much for your consideration of my comments. I’ll look forward to answering any questions you may have and providing you with any additional information for your work sessions.
1) NRCM’s Proposed Amendments to LD 1578 as of 2/16/16
2) Michigan Example for Mandatory Recycling Reporting
3) Map of Currently Licensed and Operating Fish and Food Composting Facilities in Maine (Data sourced from DEP; we can provide the table of specific facility names upon request)
4) Table comparing commercial food recovery laws in VT, MA, CT, and RI with the proposal in LD 1578
5) Sample equations from MA used to estimate if a commercial entity is subject to the food recovery requirement
1 Product Stewardship Institute
 For calculating what the fees would be for all tonnage delivered to waste-to-energy facilities, we simply add the ash tonnage to the current tonnage delivered (even though WTEs won’t be charged for the ash itself).