From Trash Incineration to Zero Waste in Maryland

How communities across Maryland handle their solid waste has enormous impacts on local air quality, municipal budgets, and contributions to climate change. Both landfills and incinerators contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and incinerators emit toxins that contribute to cancer and more diseases in surrounding communities. But alternatives to landfilling and incineration, like composting and source reduction, can reduce costs, create more local jobs, reduce air pollution, and even sequester carbon. In Maryland's 2020 legislative session, we focused on a set of bills to stop incentivizing trash incineration, and start promoting composting. This letter, signed by 60 Maryland-based organizations, explains why.

Burning trash is not clean energy: Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard continues to define burning trash as clean energy and subsidize it like wind and solar, and the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2019 made even more subsidies available to trash incineration. HB0438/SB0560 would have removed trash incineration from Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to stop burning our money away, propping up a polluting industry, and allow truly renewable energy sources to grow in Maryland. Read our testimony in support of this bill, signed by 33 organizations and businesses.

Burning trash is not recycling: Maryland’s recycling definitions allow toxic incinerator ash to be counted as “recycled," providing an extra subsidy and incentive for trash incineration. HB0179 would have changed this definition so that trash incinerators will treat their toxic waste as what it is: toxic waste. Read our testimony in support of this bill here.

Keep compost out of landfills: Ensuring that organic waste - food scraps, yard waste, compostable paper and plastic products, etc - is diverted away from trash incineration and landfilling to composting can save municipalities money, build healthy soils on farmland, sequester carbon when used in regenerative agriculture practices, and even create new local businesses in communities across Maryland. HB0589 would have required large producers of organic waste to divert their organic waste from incinerators and landfills and supported the already-existing local movements developing at-scale compost infrastructure across our state. Read our testimony in support of this bill, signed by 28 organizations and businesses.

As Maryland's legislative session ended early for the first time since the Civil War when the coronavirus crisis hit, and in the face of intense industry opposition, none of these bills passed this year. But we're working to build power for legislative change in 2021 and beyond. Sign up here to learn more, join organizing meetings, and find out how you can volunteer!

Zero waste businesses in Maryland
Transitioning away from trash incineration and toward zero waste will spark new business development in Maryland! We've interviewed a few that are already getting started:

Do you know someone who's started a zero waste business? Contact us and put us in touch!