HELENA – Every day solid waste is generated in Montana, including household garbage, construction debris, electronics, recyclables, yard trimmings and other organic and inorganic wastes. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality regulates and manages this waste using a variety of prioritized approaches, such as source reduction, re-use, recycling and composting, as well as landfilling and incineration.
Every five years DEQ issues an Integrated Waste Management Plan that reports on materials management and source reduction trends in Montana. The report also sets aggressive goals to divert waste from landfills and compares these goals against past targets.
After input from a stakeholder task force that included representatives of local governments, solid waste and recycling entities, environmental organizations, citizens and other interested parties, the Integrated Waste Management Plan is now available for public comment through (December 20, 2018). The full report is available here: http://deq.mt.gov/Public/notices/solidwastelegalpublicnotice
The task force meetings identified the following notable successes:
- The organization Recycle Montana has purchased and developed eight educational trunks for use by Montana schools.
- First graders in Missoula succeeded in a municipal ban on plastic beverage straws – unless specifically requested – and had May 4, 2018 declared “Straw Free Day.”
- Commissioners in Sanders County sought and received support of local businesses to enact a voluntary ban on Styrofoam packaging and containers.
- To reduce plastic use in Yellowstone National Park, a Montana company was selected to provide recyclable aluminum water bottles, which will potentially divert a quarter million plastic water bottles from the park’s waste stream.
- Through its curbside collection program, Helena Recycling now transports glass to the Ash Grove Cement plant in Montana City where it is used as an amendment.
- Three concert venues and bars in Missoula have eliminated single-use containers to help with that community’s “Zero by Fifty” initiative.
- Pacific Steel & Recycling has received third-party accreditation for e-waste and responsible recycling (R2) certification, with some sites offering 24-hour drop-off bins.
- The community of Eureka in Lincoln County recently marked a decade of recycling a major portion of its cardboard.
- A growing trend by Montanans to recycle, and a willingness to pay for these services.
The task force also identified several barriers to sustainable materials management within communities across the state. These include:
- Incomplete data on landfill diversion rates due to the voluntary nature of the annual Recycling Survey.
- Lack of public education on where to recycle, how to recycle, cost of recycling and the problems caused by contamination of recyclable materials.
- China’s suspension in early 2018 of accepting recyclable materials from the U.S.
- Transportation costs to bring recyclables to processing centers and secondary markets.
- The closure of two non-profits in Butte and Helena that provided important recycling, re-use and e-waste services.
- DEQ’s own licensing system to hold community Solid Waste and Household Hazardous Waste collection events.
New to the 2018 Integrated Waste Management Plan are updated rules for composting and land farms, information on Coal Combustion Residue, animal composting and information on yard/food waste.
Public comments will be taken until 5 pm on December 20, 2018. They can be sent to DEQ Waste and Underground Tank Management Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620.