Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recycling Laws

Yesterday in Massachusetts, voters rejected Ballot Question 2, which sought to expand the state's
bottle deposit law. Naturally, this has me wondering about the existing law and how to go about researching this topic.

There is not a particular federal statute governing this issue, but Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations deals with protection of the environment and governs disposal of certain products, such as specific types of batteries, which must be managed as Universal Waste. Otherwise, each state is free to handle recycling as it sees fit.  For instance, Massachusetts does not require rechargeable battery recycling, while most neighboring states have at least some requirements for rechargeable battery recycling. Call2recycle.org has a nice map detailing these differences.

Solving a problem as large as reducing solid waste has led to some creative laws. One approach and perhaps a growing trend, is to ban certain products altogether, thus eliminating the need to recycle them. Concord, Massachusetts recently passed a ban on plastic bottles. Penalties for violating the ban and selling bottled water range from a warning for a first offense to up to $50 for each subsequent infraction. A number of cities have banned plastic bags, including five cities in Massachusetts.

So, what is the best way to locate recycling laws?

Searching the official website for each state seems to be the most effective way to locate laws for your state. A quick Google search for "recycling laws MA" retrieved the Energy and Environmental Affairs page on Mass.gov, which displays both statutes and regulations in a nice chart format. Clicking on the link will give you the current law and any proposed or recently promulgated amendments. As mentioned earlier, individual cities may have stricter laws, especially densely populated ones like NYC.




Connecticut's site includes a list of mandatory items that must be recycled.

It is a little more difficult to compare laws across states. Many websites discuss how to recycle, but don't necessarily get into the laws of recycling. While sites such as Call2recycle.org gather information across states, they don't cover all types of recycling.

November 15 is America Recycles Day. To help us get in the recycling mood, Keep America Beautiful, Inc. is sponsoring a contest that ends on November 20. Take a picture of yourself recycling with the tag line  #RecyclingSelfie for a chance to win one of many prizes!

To close, here's a fun fact I learned during my research: In Massachusetts, a
redemption center may refuse to accept more than 120 beverage containers from any one person during a 24-hour period.

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