Mass. orgs want Maura Healey to ban single-use plastic, stop new landfills

As the incoming Healey-Driscoll administration continues to seek feedback from the public about top needs in the commonwealth, a coalition of environmental and climate change advocacy groups want the future leaders to pave a path to a zero waste Massachusetts.

Zero Waste Massachusetts — comprised of organizations including MASSPIRG, Community Action Works, Clean Water Action Massachusetts, Conservation Law Foundation, and Just Zero — unveiled 10 suggestions this week tied to landfill and recycling practices. The recommendations come at a crucial time during the holiday season, when the concept of reducing waste should be a top priority for Gov.-elect Maura Healey, the coalition said.

“Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey and her administration have a huge opportunity to address one of the most pressing environmental and public health issues today — our waste crisis,” the coalition said in a news release.

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Zero Waste, as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance, is “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

To reduce waste, the next administration should enforce the Department of Environmental Protection’s waste bans, ameliorating the 40% of materials that erroneously enter landfills and incinerators.

“Landfills and incinerators pollute our air and water, take up open space and are expensive and unsustainable,” Zero Waste Massachusetts said.

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More standards and transparency are needed in recycling labels, the coalition said, ensuring consumers are not misled about what materials can be separated from trash.

Massachusetts should institute a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, plus a ban on polystyrene, or styrofoam, the coalition recommends.

The state’s bottle bill, which outlines what type of beverage containers come with refundable values, must be updated after undergoing no changes for 40 years, Zero Waste Massachusetts said.

Packing manufacturers should also be held financially accountable for their roles in creating waste, the coalition said, as Massachusetts can pursue legislation that echoes laws already on the books in Maine and Oregon.

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Electronic manufacturers, meanwhile, could be required to provide parts to fix broken phones and other devices. This recommendation acknowledges that “electronic waste is the most dangerous/poisonous thing most of us throw out,” Zero Waste Massachusetts said.

Similarly, the coalition said Bay Staters should be urged to embrace a “reuse” culture, made possible by an improved “libraries of things” system for borrowing items that people may need to use only “every once in a while.”

Investing in composting infrastructure could eliminate food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, too, the coalition recommended.

The coalition also called on Healey to reenact the 1980s moratorium on new landfills and prevent the growth of existing facilities. Should the future governor heed all of the suggestions from Zero Waste Massachusetts, the commonwealth “will not need them and can start phasing out the ones we have,” the coalition said.

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