Why Do We Import Trash?
DEQ annual Solid Waste Report piques our curiosity
We at N3 are big fans of recycling.
First off, it’s a really fine thing to do given the compelling propensity toward consuming we bipeninsular denizens share with much of humankind.
We recognize it’s not a profitable enterprise and is, in fact, rather expensive and still efforts are made to find a way to make it available so we can reduce what ends up in landfills. These efforts are encouraged from many sides including our state government.
But given this proclivity for consumption no matter how much effort is put into recycling and reusing and reducing we still produce a lot of solid waste.
A whole lot.
So when we receive a release such as this which speaks to the amount of waste that ends up in landfills...our state’s landfills… from other states and Canada the ongoing acceptance of refuse from these sources seems to our naive eyes to be rather...well...excessive might be a good word.
After all we are asked to recycle, reuse and reduce right? To do our part to keep landfills...our state’s landfills...from becoming inundated to the point of perhaps requiring another landfill maybe?
This is not new news (nor is it fake news) and yet given the ever escalating cost of both recycling and trash removal, it seems to be an issue worth visiting.
N3 sent the press release in question to our local State Representative Scott VanSingel expressing our puzzlement as to why we import a quarter of the trash that is found in our landfills from other states and Canada and asked if he might shed a bit of light on the situation and here was his (very prompt) reply.
“That is a good question. The simple answer is the tipping fee the state charges for waste entering a landfill is significantly lower than all the surrounding states which makes Michigan a destination for garbage. Currently the state charges 36 cents per ton of solid waste. Courts have ruled that we cannot charge a higher fee for out of state waste, therefore, we are an attractive location to import garbage. As an example of how low our fee is compared to other states, Wisconsin charges $13 per ton, Illinois is $2 and Pennsylvania is $6.25. This is one reason most other states have much higher recycling rates than Michigan.
Last term, the Governor had proposed raising the tipping fee to $4.75 which would put us in line with the surrounding states. It was estimated to raise $79M which would be used for environmental cleanup and recycling efforts and would likely reduce the amount of out of state trash entering Michigan. The proposal did not have sufficient support. Instead, a terrible compromise was reached during the lame duck session in which we essentially took money from the School Aid fund to pay for the environmental cleanup and recycling efforts. I am working on legislation to reverse this and create a permanent funding source that is not at the expense of public education.
Thank you Representative VanSingel.
Of course we are intrigued as to why the measure never received adequate support during the infamous recent lame duck session. Perhaps our solons were reticent to raise the rates because the costs would be passed onto consumers from haulers which is understandable and yet it continues to keep trash flowing into our state. Trash we did not produce.
1. We seem to have have bargain rates when it comes to dumping stuff.
2. The courts apparently have said we can’t charge more for another country much less another state.
Being charitable to our neighbors is good. Keeping haulers costs down so that it doesn’t hit consumers? Also good.
Taking in about 12 million cubic yards of trash that was produced elsewhere?
Problematic in our most humble of opinions. But maybe we're missing something here.
Let us know your thoughts.
And here is the release for your perusal.
LANSING-The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) recently released its 23rd annual solid waste report, which offers an annual look at waste disposed of in Michigan’s landfills. Michigan’s long-term planning for landfill capacity continues to pay off, resulting in 27 years of landfill capacity at the current rate.
There was a 3.6 percent overall increase in solid waste disposed of in Michigan landfills compared to the same period in 2017. This increase highlights the continuing challenge of short term costs associated with disposal versus that of a more balanced materials management approach (i.e., reduce, reuse, recycle) in Michigan. Waste disposed of by Michigan residents and businesses increased by almost 5 percent, and waste imported from other states and Canada decreased by about 3 percent.
Imported waste represented about 24 percent of all waste disposed of in Michigan landfills. The largest source of waste imported into Michigan continued to be Canada, contributing 18.6 percent of waste disposed of in Michigan, underscoring the large gap in disposal costs between Michigan and Canadian landfills. Eleven states import waste into Michigan; of the eleven states, Ohio contributed the largest amount of waste imported to Michigan from a state.
All 66 Michigan landfills are required to submit information on disposal to the MDEQ. The department compiles this information into an annual report for the Legislature.
The specific amounts of waste disposed in Michigan during fiscal year (FY) 2018 from various jurisdictions are:
Waste Generation Origin
Waste Volume (Cubic Yards)
FY 2017 FY 2018
Canada 10,572,922 9,770,385
Connecticut 0 126,138
Illinois 30,762 19,097
Indiana 598,361 558,613
Iowa 19 10
Kansas 20 7
Michigan 37,723,925 39,932,328
Minnesota 10 0
Missouri 4 4
Montana 11 0
New Jersey 276 21,956
Ohio 1,459,442 1,792,600
Tennessee 14 0
Pennsylvania 0 42
Washington 6 0
West Virginia 180 100
Wisconsin 218,740 223,935
To view the report, visit www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3312_4123-47581--,00.html.
The MDEQ, as part of its ongoing mission, will continue discussions with stakeholders regarding potential policy changes and other options to further promote reducing overall waste generated, innovative reuse of materials, and increased recycling in Michigan.
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