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Left Panelists Heidi McAuliffe, Waneta Trabert, and Justine Fallon, Right Organizer Thomas Irwin and Moderator John Krol

Solid Waste Forum Urges Support for Upcoming PaintCare Legislation

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass.—A solid waste forum on Wednesday was held at the Berkshire Innovation Center to gain support for upcoming PaintCare legislation.  
 
Event organizer Thomas Irwin said the forum is the continuation of mass public education on potential solutions for the solid waste crisis. 
 
Panelists, Mattress Recycling Council Director of Operations Justine Fallon, PaintCare VP Government Affairs Heidi McAuliffe, and Massachusetts Product Stewardship Council Chair Waneta Trabert, discussed the proposed legislation, solid waste programs, and their impacts. 
 
The three solid waste leaders demonstrated the obstacles that bills are facing, how they work, and what is involved in the bill. 
 
Senator Paul Mark intended on attending the forum but was addressing flooding incidents in the Connecticut River Valley. Instead, he sent a video message
 
With the flooding in mind, Mark noted how critical it is to make it easier for producers to take back toxic or hazardous products and make it easier to recycle products that lead to climate issues. 
 
"I think it is crucial and critical to mitigating climate change to make our environment better and protecting our beautiful region that we love so much and for trying to make sure that in the future agriculture is sustainable," Mark said. 
 
"…We have a lot to offer in Western Massachusetts. We have a lot to offer in the Berkshires and a big piece of that is keeping a beautiful climate, keeping a beautiful environment, making sure that we are sustainable and renewable as we move into the future."
 
Irwin said there are a lot of moving parts and personalities involved in these bills and the panelists were able to provide a deeper understanding in a comprehensive way.
 
Landfills are running out of space which consequently increases costs because the waste has to be transported to other states, Trabert said. 
 
Currently, 40 percent of trash generated in Massachusetts is transported to other states, she said. Based on her experience, she has seen cost increases ranging from 20 to 40 percent. 
 
Trabert said the solution to this issue is to divert and reduce waste that requires disposal and create sustainable funding for waste diversion and reduction.
 
PaintCare has three bills before the Commonwealth, all of which are virtually identical, McAuliffe and Trabert said. Current proposed bills: Bill H.823Bill S.551, and Bill S.542
 
During this bill cycle, Trabert said she plans on focusing on getting one of the PaintCare bills passed as it has "minimal opposition," "strong united support," and is proven to work in other states. 
 
If passed, the bill would cause municipal savings amounting to about $2 million. These factors make it easier to pass a bill, but Trabert cautioned it does not guarantee it.
 
This is the seventh time this bill has been brought before the Legislature in the last 12 years. The educational programming serves as a way to encourage legislators to help get this bill to the floor of the legislature, Irwin said. 
 
Panelists McAuliffe and Trabert mulled over using the Product Stewardship approach for recycling paint, in which manufacturers take responsibility for the end life of their products. 
 
The Product Stewardship approach collaborates the four main parties to the legislation — manufacturers, paying retailers, consumers and the government. 
 
The agreement between the parties has to be turned into a law to prevent those against it from bringing an antitrust suit against the paint industry. 
 
The approach creates incentives for manufacturers to create environmental designs for the systems, Trabert said. 
 
If passed, the legislation would reduce the cost and labor burden for municipalities, and may encourage manufacturers to create longer-lasting products, Trabert said.
 
The state's responsibility is to ensure that the paint industry is running the program as a nonprofit. 
 
If the manufacturers are unable to figure out end-of-life care they would not be allowed to sell paint, McAuliffe said. 
 
The price of the paint purchased goes up based on the fee set by PaintCare that helps fund the program. 
 
McAuliffe said PaintCare does not have the same fee schedule in every state because costs differ in every state. 
 
"We want to keep [paint prices] as low as possible so we tailor it to every state. We will send an auditor into every single state to kind of do research and determine what transportation costs are, what collection costs are, what the bins cost, everything so that we can develop that fee schedule and tailor it to each and every state program," McAuliffe said.
 
The retailers pay the fee to PaintCare and increase the cost of their paint based on that fee, she said. 
 
McAuliffe said she has not had a manufacturer express that they do not want this legislation to pass. 
 
McAuliffe said they have run into pushback from retailers that fear the unknown. Big Box chains are not in opposition to the bill but have been agnostic about it. 
 
Education can help relieve the fears that retailers express having, McAuliffe said. 
 
McAuliffe has been in the paint industry for 30 years and although the initial response was that paint is not a waste product, through education came understanding and recognizing the issue and the impact it has on municipalities. 
 
The industry began to look into solutions and sat down with the Product Stewardship Institution, environmental agencies, and paint recyclers to null over solutions and although it took a while in the end they had the elements of a paint care program, McAuliffe said. 
 
It was determined that this approach was feasible and cost-efficient after a pilot program was established in Minnesota. When the governor vetoed the legislation twice the program was moved to Oregon. 
 
Today PaintCare operates in 11 states but there is still work that needs to be done. 
 
PaintCare works with businesses, organizations, and recyclers in the area but reaches beyond the existing infrastructure by reaching out to retailers to request that they be collection locations at no cost, McAuliffe said. 
 
In active PaintCare program states 97.7 percent of residents are within eight miles of a collection location. 
 
Active PaintCare program states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and New York. 
 
To date, PaintCare has collected over 66.5 million gallons of paint.
 
Mattress Recycling was also discussed during this forum.
 
 
If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at info@iberkshires.com.

Weekend Outlook: Student Art, Music & History

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
With the area warming up, events are blooming in the Berkshires this weekend, including an egg hunt, live music, fitness events, and more.
 
Editor's Picks 
 
Teen Invitational Reception
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
Time: 6 to 8 p.m., Friday
 
The North Adams museum hosts its 12th annual reception for some of the amazingly talented teens in the region. The collaboration with the high school art teachers exhibits student work in a wide range of media through Sunday. The opening night reception concludes with awards and a music in the Hunter Center. 
 
Free and open to the public. 
 
Easter Egg Hunt
Whitney's Farm Market & Garden Center, Cheshire
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