On October 1st of this year, the Commonwealth will become one of the first states to ban commercial food waste from its landfills. The ban has been a long time in the making, with the state’s government first proposing the measure in 2012. The state’s move towards banning organic waste was largely driven by an increasing shortage in landfill capacity, as well as a desire to increase Massachusetts’ green energy portfolio.

As of this year, the state has roughly 2 million tons of landfill capacity, but this is projected to drop sharply to a mere 600,000 tons by 2020. With land in short supply, and a byzantine permitting process, the state cannot expect new landfills to be built for handling the state’s 1.4 million tons of food waste produced every year.

An example of a large-scale anaerobic digestion facility,

An example of a large-scale anaerobic digestion facility,

The food waste ban is the state’s solution to this impending landfill crisis. In the first year of the ban’s enactment, Massachusetts hopes to divert approximately 470,000 tons of commercial organic waste to a combination of composting facilities and biomass power generators. The state government has been working with a variety of players, including private farmers with existing anaerobic digestion facilities, in order to ensure that the state has the necessary infrastructure in place to handle the influx of organics.

Some cities, such as Dartmouth, Massachusetts, have taken a proactive approach and started building out their local waste management facilities ahead of the ban. The Crapo Hill Landfill in Dartmouth has just begun building their own anaerobic digester to supplement their existing landfill-gas-to-energy system. The new facility will initially be able to process 3,000 gallons of organic waste per day with a total operating capacity of 100,000 gallons. After this pilot phase is completed, the facility will expand to an operational capacity of 1.2 million gallons.

At that later stage the facility will be able to churn out 4.4 Megawatts of electricity when combined with the output of the landfill gas facility; enough to power 3,000-4,000 homes.