Analysis of reversing Maryland's 'zero-waste' plan

By Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive.

Maryland’s "zero waste" plan came to an unceremonious end last week, and so far, even avowed "zero waste" supporters don’t seem to mind. 

Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to repeal the 2015 "zero waste" executive order put in place by his predecessor, Martin O’Malley, came as a surprise. An editorial in The Baltimore Sun even called it "odd." Though both industry and environmental groups see things they like in Hogan’s new version. Perhaps, they say, Maryland can actually make more progress without the old "zero waste" plan after all.

Hogan made the announcement during a speech at the Maryland Municipal League’s summer conference on June 27. After describing O'Malley's plan as a usurpation of local government authority, he offered a brief rationale for the decision.

"...Earlier today, I signed an executive order to repeal that burdensome regulation, which had created overflowing landfills and unnecessary hardships for local governments," Hogan said in a video posted from the event. "We're replacing that last-minute, ill-conceived and poorly devised policy with a common sense, balanced approach to managing waste in Maryland which lifts that state mandate on permitting and re-configures recycling rates to realistic, reasonable and achievable levels." 

Soon after, Hogan’s office released a five-page executive orderlaying out details for a new “Waste Reduction and Resource Recovery Plan." At first glance, it includes many of the same words as any other modern waste strategy — sustainable materials management, source reduction, reuse, stakeholder consultation, data measurement, inter-agency cooperation, job creation, and anaerobic digestion, among others. Unlike O’Malley’s plan, it doesn't include any dates, diversion rate targets or mention of internal recycling priorities for state government.