Trash from Canada Piling Up
Canadian waste dumped in Michigan surged, while state residents sent less junk to Michigan's landfills in 2004.
Data released Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality shows waste imported from Canada climbed 23 percent in 2004, and now makes up 18 percent of all trash deposited in Michigan.
The increase may provide impetus to legislation proposed by House Democrats this week to slap a $7.50-per-ton surcharge on waste put in Michigan landfills. The fee would raise at least $130 million to bolster state and local recycling programs, and would make it cost-prohibitive for some communities to truck their trash to the Great Lakes State.
"It should make Michigan a less attractive place to ship waste. And we ought to at least be generating some money off it for recycling," said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council.
A similar but less taxing $3 surcharge was proposed last year, but died in committee after industry groups and some local governments objected.
The current surcharge plan is opposed by waste haulers and other business interests who say the cost will be borne primarily by Michiganders, who generate 72 percent of trash dumped in-state.
"It's a tax that's going to be passed on to Michigan families, communities and businesses," said Deb Muchmore, spokeswoman for the Michigan Waste Industries Association.
About 3.1 pounds of municipal solid waste was generated daily after recycling -- by the average U.S. resident in 2001, according to the latest estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. If that is true in Michigan, it means the $7.50 proposal would cost about $4.24 annually per person. The figure does not include indirect costs passed on by businesses.
The statistics released Tuesday show that garbage from all out-of-state sources including Canada was up 17 percent.
Waste generated in Michigan declined 2 percent.
The numbers are for the 2004 fiscal year so they don't reflect impacts from new laws designed to slow the flow of out-of-state waste that took effect Dec. 1.
Those laws -- despite being touted as anti-Canadian trash measures by politicians throughout the state -- aren't expected to have a big impact on the flow, say DEQ analysts.
Five Canadian provinces and the city of Toronto, for example, obtained state certification under the new rules to continue sending trash into Michigan even before the laws took effect -- barely a speed bump on the dump trucks' route across the Ambassador and Blue Water bridges.
"We never believed it would stop solid waste from coming," said DEQ spokesman Bob McCann of the new laws, which require communities sending trash to Michigan to adhere to Michigan's recycling and disposal standards. "We always looked at it as a way to make the waste stream cleaner and safer."
In a recycling report released along with Tuesday's data, the DEQ supports a trash surcharge to bolster recycling. Gov. Jennifer Granholm said earlier this year that a surcharge would be one of her legislative priorities, and she vowed to double Michigan's recycling rate by 2008.
"A surcharge makes sense," DEQ Director Steve Chester said Tuesday. "Most of that would be returned to local communities, and one-third of that would be coming from out-of-state sources," he said.
Michigan's recycling rate of 20 percent is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and one of the lowest in the nation, the DEQ report states.
The data also showed:
Michigan took waste from 12 states as close as Ohio and as far away as Maine. Indiana sent the most, followed by Illinois and Ohio -- but all the states combined did not surpass Canada's contribution.
The percentage of waste from Canada has increased for five straight years, rising from 4.5 percent in 1999 to 18 percent in 2004.
Landfilled waste from all sources rose 3 percent to 65,287,255 cubic yards -- or about one standard-size business Dumpster for every state resident. The report and data are available online at: www.michigan.gov/deq under the "waste" heading under "announcements."
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News