Mass. to make big food wasters lose the landfill

A new ban, starting Oct. 1, required all institutions that produce more than a ton of food waste per week to find other ways to discard food besides landfills.

WASHINGTON—Sure, there's plenty you can do with leftovers: foist them on your office mates or turn them into casserole.

But if you're a big food waste generator like a hospital or a supermarket, your scraps usually go to the landfill to rot.

In Massachusetts, that's about to change, as the state prepares to implement the most ambitious commercial food waste ban in the U.S.

The ban, which will commence Oct. 1, applies to institutions that produce more than a ton of food waste a week. Those 1,700 some-odd supermarkets, schools, hospitals and food producers will no longer be able to send their discarded food to the landfill. Instead, they they'll have to donate the useable food and ship the rest to a composting facility, a plant that turns the scraps into energy or a farm that can use it as animal food.

"It's a material that we've historically wasted. And now we're putting in place the rules and regulations that should allow this resource to be utilized in lots of different kinds of ways," David Cash, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, tells The Salt.

What's driving this policy? Landfills aren't very environmentally or financially attractive anymore. They generate greenhouse gases, and space is getting increasingly limited – and costly — as they start to reach capacity.

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