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.

Burning trash is not clean energy: Pollution from incinerators increases the risk of pre-term births and lung and blood cancers. Maryland’s incinerators emit higher levels of mercury, lead, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2) than our coal plants. But 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. The BRESCO trash incinerator in Baltimore has received over $10 million in subsidies, as well as the Covanta-operated incinerators in Montgomery County and Lorton, VA – all from your utility bill. HB0332 deletes trash incineration from MD’s Renewable Portfolio Standard so incinerators no longer receive ‘clean energy’ subsidies.

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. HB0280/SB0304 deletes trash incineration from the Maryland Recycling Act so communities don’t receive credit for burning trash.

Burning plastic is not recycling: As local governments in Maryland talk about zero waste, they’re not only hearing from community members and advocates – they’re also hearing from plastic and oil industry representatives trying to sell them on “chemical recycling.” That can mean a lot of things, but it often means turning plastic back into fuel to be burned. HB0021 bans the chemical conversion of plastic into fuel.

Keep compost out of landfills and incineratorsEnsuring 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. HB0264 requires facilities that produce more than 2 tons of food waste per week - which are responsible for over half of the total food waste in Maryland - to keep their food waste out of their trash if there is a composting facility nearby that could accept it instead. Learn more and take action on this bill here. (Are you part of an organization that would like to support? Sign on to this group testimony!)

 

 
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!

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