Maryland – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion

In April 2021, the Maryland Legislature passed House Bill 264, “Solid Waste Management – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion – Food Residuals,” sponsored by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (District 20). The bill’s goal is to divert wasted food from landfills and incinerators and spur the development of more capacity to reduce, rescue, and recycle this material. It became law on May 30th without Governor Hogan’s signature. 

Large Food Waste Generators (LFWGs)

In Maryland, most wasted food is landfilled or burned in trash incinerators. In 2019, of the estimated 927,926 tons of wasted food, only about 15% was recycled. Most of this tonnage is generated by Maryland’s estimated 3,961 large food waste generators (LFWGs), which include supermarkets, hotels, schools and universities, food processing facilities, and food distribution warehouses. While this bill covers public and nonpublic schools, cafeterias, supermarkets, and school-owned facilities, it does not cover restaurants or school systems as a whole entity.

Covered LFWGs will be required to reduce, donate, or recycle their wasted food if capacity exists within 30 miles of the location generating the food residuals. The law applies only if the LFWG is within 30 miles of an organics recycling facility that has capacity and is willing to accept ALL of the food residuals from the LFWG.

“Section 9-1724.1 (B)
(B) This section applies only to a person that:
1.         (i) On or after January 1, 2023, generates at least 2 tons of food residuals each week; AND
(ii) On or after January 1, 2024, generates at least 1 ton of food residuals each week; AND
2. Generates the food residuals at a location that is within a 30-mile radius of an organics recycling facility that:
(i) Has the capacity to accept and process all of the person’s food residuals; 
(ii) Is willing to accept all of the person’s food residuals for recycling; AND
(iii) Is willing to enter into a contract to accept and process the person’s food residuals.”

 

Requirements for LFWGs

Section 9-1724.1 (C) of the legislation spells out that the covered LFWGs must practice source-separation and outlines the various methods of diverting food waste from landfills and incinerators.

“(C) Except as provided in subsection (D) of this section, a person that generates food residuals shall:
(1) Separate the food residuals from other solid waste; AND
(2) Ensure that the food residuals are diverted from final disposal in a refuse system by:
(i) Reducing the amount of food residuals generated by the person;
(ii) Donating servable food;
(iii) Managing the food residuals in an organics recycling system installed on-site;
(iv) Providing for the collection and transportation of the food residuals for agricultural use, including for use as animal feed;
(v) Providing for the collection and transportation of the food residuals for processing in an organics recycling facility; OR
(vi)Engaging in any combination of the waste diversion activities listed under items (i) through (v) of this item.”

 

Waivers

Section 9-1724.1 (D) provides that waivers may be granted in the case of demonstrated undue hardship to the LFWG, particularly if the cost of diverting food residuals from a landfill or incinerator is more than 10% more expensive than the cost of disposing the food residuals as usual. 

“(D) (1) A person that generates food residuals may apply to the department for a waiver from the requirements of subsection (C) of this section. 
       (2) The Department may grant a waiver under paragraph (1) of this subsection if the person demonstrates, to the satisfaction of the
Department, undue hardship because of the following:
(i) The cost of diverting food residuals from a refuse disposal system is more than 10% more expensive than the cost of disposing the food residuals at a refuse disposal system; OR
(ii) Other reasonable circumstances.”

 

Penalties

Violations of this law will be subject to penalties which include fines for every violation after an initial warning, as outlined in section 9-1724.1 (F). Any collected penalties will be distributed to a fund which will be used only to finance incentives that encourage food waste reduction and composting in the state. Maryland’s Department of Commerce will provide recommendations to the General Assembly on financial and other incentives to be issued using the penalty fund beginning January 1, 2023. 

“(F).     (1) The Department shall issue a warning to a person who violates this section or any rule or regulation adopted under this section. 
(2) After receiving a warning issued under paragraph (1) of this subsection, a person who subsequently violates this section, or any rule or regulation adopted under this section, shall be subject to a civil penalty, to be collected in a civil action brought by the Department, of:
(i) $250 for the second violation;
(ii)$500 for the third violation; AND
(iii)$1000 for the fourth and each subsequent violation.
(3) Each day a violation occurs is a separate violation under this section. 
(4) Penalties collected under this subsection shall be distributed to a special fund, to be used only to finance incentives that encourage food waste reduction and composting in the State.”

 

Further Reading

This legislation took more than seven years to pass. For more information on earlier versions of the law and ILSR’s involvement, check out our article on MD House Bill 264 and three other new Maryland laws that spur local composting. 

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Original post from July 7, 2021

Follow Sophia Jones:
Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is an Intern with ILSR’s Composting for Community project. She is passionate about sustainability at all levels and has previously worked with the United Nations, the Government of Barbados, and Plant NOVA Natives on various sustainability-related projects.

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Brenda Platt

Brenda Platt directs ILSR's Composting for Community project.