ANNAPOLIS, MD -- On Thursday, May 4th, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed two bills to advance composting in Maryland. One will bolster recovery of food waste and other organic materials by expanding infrastructure in the state. The other will reduce contamination at compost sites by preventing the false labeling of plastics as compostable or biodegradable. In signing the bills, which were among dozens of environmental bills passed by the Maryland legislature in 2017, Governor Hogan thanked the state’s elected officials for the real bipartisan effort in passing laws to “protect our soil, our air, and our water… and grow the investment in jobs in our state.”
HB171/SB99, the “Yard Waste and Food Residuals Diversion and Infrastructure Act,” requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to study and report on existing compost manufacturing infrastructure in Maryland, as well as laws in other states that divert food scraps and organics, and to then recommend how to improve infrastructure and funding opportunities to expand composting in the Maryland. The bill requires the Department to consult with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), along with a number of ILSR’s allies including the MD-DC Compost Council, the American Biogas Council, the Maryland Horse Council, the Chesapeake Foodshed Network, the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council.
HB1349, “Compostable, Degradable, and Biodegradable Plastic Products – Labeling,” requires products being sold in the state labelled as compostable to meet well-established standards. HB1349 was singled out as one of 12 key environmental bills signed by the Governor at the Annapolis City Dock.
The passage of the bills were thanks in large part to the efforts of Delegate Shane Robinson, who sponsored both bills on the House side; Senator Thomas Middleton, sponsor of Senate Bill 99; and Brenda Platt, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who led the coalition in crafting the bills.
“With the passage of these bills, Maryland can begin exploring different ways to encourage composting in our state,” says bill sponsor Del. Shane Robinson. “The study group created by this legislation, comprised of state agencies, non-profit organizations, and private entities, will make Maryland more competitive in the field of renewable resources, while decreasing the waste we put into our landfills, and the labelling bill will ensure that composting facilities have clean materials to create their compost with.”
“Composting sustains four times more jobs on a per-ton basis than landfilling or burning trash,” says Brenda Platt, the chief architect of both bills. “These bills will help Maryland grow composting and food waste recovery in a way that supports farmers and new businesses and creates jobs.” Thanks to her advocacy, HB171/SB99 specifically calls for the Department to investigate ways to encourage a decentralized and diverse infrastructure, and to prevent generation of organic waste.
“We congratulate Maryland on leading the way towards a more sustainable future. Kudos to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for helping push the state towards greater organics recycling and healthier soils,” said Frank Franciosi, executive director of the US Composting Council.
The President of the Maryland Horse Council, Jane Seigler, said, “We believe that organic waste generated by farming in general and by horse farming in particular can and should be an important component of composting programs that divert this resource to beneficial reuse.”
According to Justen Garrity, owner of Veteran Compost, “HB1349 would reduce the burden on our company to deal with non-compostable wastes and allow us to use that money to grow our business in Maryland.”
Referring to HB1349, Rhodes Yepsen, the Executive Director of the Biodegradable Products Institute, stated, “This new labeling requirement will significantly reduce ‘greenwashing,’ where false and unsubstantiated claims negatively impact both consumers and the environment, and thereby build trust in truly compostable products and packaging for diverting food scraps from households and businesses in Maryland.”
HB171/SB99 passed by votes of 46-0 in the MD Senate and 134-2 in the MD House, and HB1349 passed by 120-8 in the MD House and 33-14 in the MD Senate.