Best Practices in Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Policies

Globe with leaves for sustainability and recycling arrow

2023 has kicked off with a surge of commitment to sustainability as legislators nationwide implement and propose policies that encourage sustainable materials management (SMM). Here, we summarize some of the significant moves and best practices in the realm of SMM policies.

Reintroduction of the COMPOST Act

Congress has reintroduced the COMPOST Act, marking a crucial step in promoting composting and organic recycling. This act highlights the potential of compost to transform waste management and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Organics Bans

Food waste constitutes the largest category of waste in landfills. However, through effective policies, this food can be transformed into a resource to rebuild our soils. New York, following the steps of other states and cities, has implemented an organics ban or food collection law to divert food from landfills. Its Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law requires significant food waste generators to donate excess food or recycle food scraps. This policy has set a benchmark for other regions to follow, emphasizing the importance of organics recycling.

Proposed Polystyrene Bans

Delaware, Illinois, and Oregon are proposing bans on polystyrene, commonly known as ‘styrofoam’, food containers. These bans aim to reduce the environmental impact of non-biodegradable waste, encouraging the use of more sustainable alternatives.

Skip the Stuff Bills

In a bid to reduce waste from food services, New York City has followed Denver, Washington D.C., Chicago, California, and Washington in passing Skip the Stuff bills. These policies, also known as Cut Out Cutlery or Accessories Available Upon Request bills, require customers to request single-use items such as cutlery, straws, and condiment packets with their takeout order, thereby reducing waste generation.

Extended Producer Responsibility Bills

Extended Producer Responsibility Bills (EPR), in essence, build a fee structure for producers to contribute to the infrastructure required to dispose of the items they manufacture. Maine, Oregon, California, and Colorado have adopted Packaging EPR laws to support composting infrastructure development. Several other states, including Maryland, New York, Washington, and New Jersey, have introduced similar bills in the 2023 session.

The momentum is building for a more sustainable future, and local governments are pivotal in this movement. If your local government has shown commitment to sustainable materials management by passing similar policies, let SWEEP help you get certified and recognized for your efforts. Comment below, email, or head to SWEEP Certification for more information. Together, we can contribute to a more sustainable world.

P.S. Want to learn more about the COMPOST Act from an amazing organization in the sustainability field? Be sure to check out BetterEarth, the inspo for this post and a fellow circular economy advocate in the world of food service packaging.

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