Northeast Group Gets Waste Reduction Grants

egional organization committed to reducing solid and hazardous waste has received two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants totaling $95,000. The grants are part of the "Resource Conservation Challenge," an EPA program to conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently.

The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association received both grants. The first grant is for $70,000 to fund an expansion to a database used by 13 states to determine if reuse of industrial waste materials is a viable alternative to traditional disposal. The other grant, for $25,000, will fund a project to look for more and better ways to recycle and reuse construction debris, specifically gypsum wallboard.

"These projects by NEWMOA will help find ways to address some of the challenges of conserving resources by recycling, instead of simply disposing of materials," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "EPA's Resources Conservation Challenge was created in 2002 specifically to support the kind of innovative projects NEWMOA has proposed."

The first grant is focused on improving and expanding "beneficial use determination" (BUD) information from states included in a database on coal combustion byproducts, foundry sands, construction and demolition debris, and other materials. The project builds on an existing database, developed by NEWMOA, by adding to the types of information available and by increasing the number of states with information in the database. The goal of this project is to increase the materials diverted from disposal to reuse/recycling by states that have BUD programs. The association will generate annual reports on tons of wastes diverted, materials reused, and analysis of environmental benefits.

The second project, dealing with construction debris, is aimed at promoting more recycling and reuse of gypsum wallboard in New England from both new construction projects and demolition and remodeling projects. This three-year project encourages making a greater supply of gypsum wallboard waste available to New England waste processors and ensuring that gypsum waste is processed in an environmentally sound manner. This project would also encourage the use of products that incorporate recycled gypsum, i.e. new gypsum wallboard.

Although reuse and recycling of construction materials is increasingly common, used gypsum board presents a greater challenge. On the one hand, this product does not have as high a reuse value as other debris, like asphalt, brick, concrete, and metals. And on the other hand, it creates a public health threat in landfill, because it can generate hydrogen sulfide gas in landfills.

The Resource Conservation Challenge works to reduce waste, reuse and recycle more products, buy more recycled and recyclable products, and reduce toxic chemicals in waste. It works with states, industry, and others to find ways to accomplish these goals.

The association's projects were among three in New England to be awarded grants this year from the Resource Recovery Challenge. To date, these types of grants have resulted in more than 27,000 tons a year of waste recycled in New England. The bulk of this waste comes from more than 300 supermarkets in Massachusetts that have begun composting their food waste. Over the past five years, EPA has invested $442,400 in projects in New England aimed at reducing waste and increasing waste reuse and recycling in New England through the Resource Conservation Challenge.

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