Community Action Works
Community Action Works


[Boston, MA]— Communities in Massachusetts have borne the brunt of poor waste disposal solutions for too long, is the message to Governor Charlie Baker from several statewide environmental and public health organizations. In a letter to the Governor, along with a report release, the coalition Zero Waste Massachusetts points out that landfills are leaking into drinking water wells, like in Southbridge, cancer-causing dioxins are spewing out of incinerator smokestacks in Saugus, the amount of trash we produce has dire public health consequences, and another course must be charted.

“Massachusetts produces 6 million tons of trash per year and is stalled at a recycling rate of just 35% over the last decade. Meanwhile hundreds of cities, states and even countries have committed to, and are moving towards Zero Waste,” said Elizabeth Saunders of Clean Water Action, one of the coalition members. The report notes that Germany diverts 65% of waste from landfills and incinerators, San Francisco diverts more than 80% and Nantucket is near 90% waste diversion. It goes on to note that wasted material ends up in landfills and incinerators, polluting air and water, and releasing potent greenhouse gases.

Read the full report.

One of the report’s co-authors, Megan Stokes of Community Action Works, said, “As this new report ‘Beyond Burn & Bury’ shows, there are many common sense, money saving, and easy ways to immediately reduce waste in the state and move us towards Zero Waste. The administration’s first draft of their 2020-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, issued in October, 2019, leaves many simple solutions on the table.”

“This report, and our letter to the Governor, makes clear that, approximately one third of our waste stream is compostable and the draft plan doesn’t go far enough to keep food and yard waste out of landfills and incinerators. It also notes that enforcing current bans on trashing recyclable resources like paper and glass would eliminate almost another one fourth of material waste and an update of the current Bottle Bill would incentivize that change,” said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG, another coalition partner. Over 140 cities and towns in the Commonwealth are leading the way by banning plastic bags, single use plastics and styrofoam, another successful tactic at reducing waste.

The report points to the Wheelabrator incinerator in Saugus. “This is the country’s oldest incinerator, with technology that should have been retired decades ago and has an accompanying landfill for it’s leftover ash that is surrounded on three sides by wetlands deemed critical bird habitat. It runs 24/7 releasing nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide which trigger asthma attacks and increase one’s lifetime risk of chronic respiratory issues and stroke – particularly dangerous as COVID continues to ravage our state,” asserted Kirstie Pecci of the Conservation Law Foundation, another coalition partner.

“For communities surrounding Wheelabrator’s Saugus incinerator, this new waste plan is literally life or death. Residents from Saugus showed up in force to last year’s hearings on the state’s trash plan and their voices need to be taken into account as the Governor revises the new plan,” said Megan Stokes of Community Action Works.

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