By Andy Rogers
Adrian, MI— The dramatic
increase in trash imports to the Lenawee County’s only landfill
in 2005 reported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
does not tell the whole story, a landfill official says, but local
leaders are still searching for a way to halt out-of-state trash
shipments to Michigan.
The DEQ released a report on
February 3 that shows a 2 percent increase in trash coming to
Michigan from other states. In Lenawee County, state Rep. Dudley
Spade, D-Tipton, held a news conference before the report’s
release condemning a much more dramatic rise in local out-of-state
waste disposal. Trash from sources other than Michigan disposed
of in the Adrian Landfill jumped 178 percent from 2004 to 2005,
Spade reported. But one landfill manager said a significant portion
of that waste will actually create more capacity in the Adrian
For several months in early 2005,
the only out-of-state garbage deposited in the local landfill
was a beneficial mixture of shredded automobile components called
“shredder fluff,” said Matt Terrill, a Great Lakes
Waste Services manager.
“That certainly played
into the figures,” he said.
Shredder fluff is used to replace
soil as a cover material in landfills. It consists of shredded
plastics and other non-metal automobile parts. The fluff can be
used as a substitute for soil in landfill covering, a practice
required by law.
When the fluff is used to cover
waste in place of soil, it compacts and retains water much better
than dirt, Terrill said. The compaction adds capacity to the landfill,
while the extra water prevents seepage and aids in the combustion
of trash. It also helps keep the combusting trash at a good temperature
“It really has a huge benefit
to the landfill and the life of the landfill,” Terrill said.
The Adrian Landfill took in tons
of the fluff early in 2005, Terrill said. Because it comes from
New England, the fluff contributed to the sharp increase in imported
trash reported by the DEQ, Terrill explained.
“At that point in time,
that was all the waste that was imported,” he said, adding
that Adrian Landfill has only accepted imported trash from east
coast states since 2004, when a directive to stop accepting waste
from neighboring states was handed down.
Statistics from the DEQ show
overall dumping in Lenawee County actually decreased in 2005 despite
the spike in imported garbage. Spade reported that Lenawee County
took in 26,000 tons of trash from Massachusetts, Ohio and Rhode
Island, compared to 9,400 tons in 2004, all from Ohio. The DEQ
report shows the Adrian Landfill also took in trash from in-state
sources in Calhoun, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Monroe and Washtenaw
counties, comprising 131,286 cubic yards of the 657,696 disposed
of at the landfill last year.
Despite the potential benefits
of the shredder fluff to the Adrian Landfill, Spade and other
state leaders continue to assert that trash importation is a public
health and environmental issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
They point to waste spills that have occurred in Michigan communities
when waste-hauling trucks have been involved in accidents. They
say those trucks cause unnecessary wear and tear on the state’s
roads and aren’t responsible for the repair bill.
State legislators have few options
in curbing trash importation, however, because interstate solid
waste shipments are protected and regulated by the federal government.
What can be done, Spade said,
is passage of a Democratic-sponsored package of bills designed
to make Michigan a less attractive dumping ground.
The DEQ reported that in 2005,
29 percent of solid waste dumped in Michigan landfills came from
outside the state’s borders. The largest source of that
waste was Canada, which increased its waste shipments to Michigan
by 3 percent from 2004 to 2005.
“It is discouraging to
see the amount of waste being brought into Michigan from outside
of our borders continue to increase,” DEQ Director Steven
E. Chester said through a press release. “This fact must
call attention to the need for real action on solid waste issues
in the Legislature.”
His agency cites recent successes
by other states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in curbing
the tide of out-of-state trash to their landfills by raising a
state-imposed fee on each ton of trash dumped at a landfill.
proposal to raise Michigan’s fee from 21 cents per ton to
$7.50 has gained widespread support by Democrats in Lansing, but
Republicans argue the fee will amount to a tax increase on landfill
users from Michigan, too. Under the Democratic plan, the additional
revenue raised through the fee increase would fund local recycling
Spade supports the fee increase
and has advocated putting the issue before voters later this year
if Republicans continue to stall the fee hike.
Judith Holcomb, chairman of the
Lenawee County Solid Waste Coordinating Committee, said she has
not yet formed an opinion on the proposed legislation.
“I still am trying to weigh
all the things about it,” she said. She was appointed to
the committee as an environmental group representative, and said
she has a clear opinion of the general trash importation issue
“I don’t want to
see that continue,” she said. “I’d like to see
that come to a halt.”
Holcomb said it is especially
important to control solid waste in Michigan because of the state’s
dependence on, and abundance of, fresh water.
“I’d really like
to see us get enough recycling so we don’t need to worry
about landfills at all,” Holcomb said. “As a county,
there are others that are way ahead of us on that right now.”
Terrill declined to comment on
the proposed fee increase, saying Great Lakes Waste Systems policy
prohibits him from discussing it.
Lenawee County Republican Party
Chairman Ted Dusseau, however, was candid about the Democrats’
push for new trash legislation.
“They only want to tell
one side, the one that looks good,” he said.
Dusseau said trash issues are
a “two-way street,” and for every bit of solid waste
Michigan and Lenawee County takes in, it sends out chemical, medical,
petroleum and building wastes.
“None of that is taken
care of in Lenawee County,” he said. “It all goes
helping them, but they’re definitely helping us.”
Dusseau said the issue has been
used for campaign purposes, and dismissed trash importation from
other states as a “false issue.”
The DEQ report was compiled using
data submitted by each of the state’s landfills. In addition
to the source of waste, it also identified landfill capacity.
Overall, the DEQ concluded Michigan has about 17 years of landfill
capacity remaining. The Adrian Landfill has about 13 years before
it reaches capacity, according to the report.
—Reprinted with permission
from The Daily Telegram