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Maryland Department of the Environment

Governor O’Malley Issues Executive Order to Drive a Zero Waste Future for Maryland


Ron Boehmer, Governor’s Office
(443) 905-6242

Governor O’Malley Issues Executive Order to Drive a Zero Waste Future for Maryland

Order sets source reduction guidelines, higher recycling and composting rates for State government, reduces landfilling and protects public health and the environment while boosting local economies

Annapolis, MD (January 13, 2015) –Building on Maryland’s plan to nearly eliminate the disposal of waste in the State to help build an environmentally sustainable future, Governor Martin O’Malley today issued an Executive Order affirming statewide waste reduction goals, directing State government to increase recycling, composting, and waste diversion and limiting new or expanded municipal and land clearing debris landfills to help drive innovation and achieve those goals.

“While we know that climate change is real, and Maryland is vulnerable, we also know that we can take steps to ensure the sustainability of our Maryland communities and our environment,” said Governor O’Malley. “Today’s action is the right thing to do for our environment – and it creates opportunities for the jobs and business activity that we need to ensure the environmental and financial health of our communities.  By limiting sources of waste, and by recycling, reusing, and composting the remaining waste, we are creating a more sustainable world for our children and their children.”

The Executive Order, effective immediately, states:

  • Maryland shall endeavor to ensure that all waste generated in the State is increasingly reduced and reused rather than discarded in a manner adversely impact our health and environment.
  • Maryland shall have a goal of 85 percent waste diversion and 80 recycling by 2040. To ensure progress toward these statewide goals, State government shall have a mandatory recycling rate of 65 percent by 2020 and shall divert at least 60 percent of its organic waste through recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion by 2020.
  • MDE will create a source reduction checklist to track and encourage waste reduction.  Additionally, in accordance with Maryland’s Green Purchasing Guidelines, State government shall consider source reduction in procurement, including by avoiding unnecessary packaging and returning reusable packaging to vendors.
  • Except for permit applications submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) before January 19, 2015, the Department will not issue a permit for any new municipal or land clearing debris landfill capacity in the State.
  • MDE will provide local governments with information on alternatives to landfilling.
“This Executive Order will lead to a marked increase in the environmentally and economically productive reuse of solid waste in Maryland,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Acting Secretary David Costello. “This action will help to ensure that the waste generated in the State is reused and not just disposed of in a way that threatens our health and the environment.”

The Order cites the steps and goals included in “Zero Waste Maryland: Maryland’s Plan to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Nearly All Waste Generated in Maryland by 2040.” Maryland has made significant progress in recycling during the past two decades. However, Marylanders generate significantly more municipal solid waste per person than the United States as a whole and continue to dispose of more than half of this waste, the majority in landfills.

Statewide, there is an estimated 36 years of remaining municipal landfill capacity at current disposal rates. Eliminating inefficient and harmful disposal of waste into landfills is possible through progressive source reduction – avoiding waste before it occurs – and increased recycling and innovation in reuse, which will extend the life spans of Maryland’s municipal landfills.

Composting of organic materials, including land clearing debris, is preferable to disposal because it generates a valuable product that improves soil quality and helps to control erosion. Diverting material from disposal to reuse, recycling and composting results in more jobs – with more than one million additional jobs nationwide if the United States meets a recycling rate of 75 percent by 2030.

The Executive Order notes the impacts of climate change that Maryland communities are already experiencing. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that methane emissions are a significant contributing factor to climate change, and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Improper handling of solid waste can also pose direct threats to public health and Maryland’s environment through odor problems, soil erosion, surface water and groundwater pollution and the propagation of disease-bearing vectors.

The Executive Order is available on the Governor’s website here:

The Zero Waste Plan is available on the MDE’s website here: