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January 20, 2015

Maryland governor issues waste reduction goals

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has issued an executive order affirming statewide waste reduction goals, directing state government to increase recycling, composting and waste diversion and limiting new or expanded landfills to help drive innovation and achieve those goals.

“While we know that climate change is real, and Maryland is vulnerable, we also know that we can take steps to ensure the sustainability of our Maryland communities and our environment,” says O’Malley. “Today’s action is the right thing to do for our environment—and it creates opportunities for the jobs and business activity that we need to ensure the environmental and financial health of our communities. By limiting sources of waste, and by recycling, reusing and composting the remaining waste, we are creating a more sustainable world for our children and their children.”

The executive order, effective immediately, states:

  • Maryland shall endeavor to ensure that all waste generated in the state is increasingly reduced and reused rather than discarded in a manner adversely impact our health and environment.
  • Maryland shall have a goal of 85 percent waste diversion and 80 recycling by 2040. To ensure progress toward these statewide goals, State government shall have a mandatory recycling rate of 65 percent by 2020 and shall divert at least 60 percent of its organic waste through recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion by 2020.
  • Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will create a source reduction checklist to track and encourage waste reduction. Additionally, in accordance with Maryland’s Green Purchasing Guidelines, state government shall consider source reduction in procurement, including by avoiding unnecessary packaging and returning reusable packaging to vendors.
  • Except for permit applications submitted to the MDE before Jan. 19, 2015, the department will not issue a permit for any new municipal or land clearing debris landfill capacity in the state.
  • MDE will provide local governments with information on alternatives to landfilling.

“This executive order will lead to a marked increase in the environmentally and economically productive reuse of solid waste in Maryland,” says David Costello, MDE acting secretary. “This action will help to ensure that the waste generated in the state is reused and not just disposed of in a way that threatens our health and the environment.”

The order cites the steps and goals included in “Zero Waste Maryland: Maryland’s Plan to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Nearly All Waste Generated in Maryland by 2040.”

Statewide, an estimated 36 years of municipal landfill capacity remain at current disposal rates.

Composting of organic materials, including land clearing debris, is preferable to disposal because it generates a valuable product that improves soil quality and helps to control erosion, says the state. Diverting material from disposal to reuse, recycling and composting results in more jobs—with more than 1 million additional jobs nationwide if the United States meets a recycling rate of 75 percent by 2030, according to the governor’s office.

The executive order says Maryland communities are already experiencing effects of climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that methane emissions are a significant contributing factor to climate change, and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States.

The executive order is available on the governor’s website.

The Zero Waste Plan is available on the MDE’s website.

CDR Staff

JANUARY 20, 2015

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