JUNE 2011

Michigan Senator proposes a fee on Canadian trash

United States Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced legislation called the “Stop Canadian Trash Act,” which proposes a $500 fee for every truck hauling waste into the United States.

Carlton Farms in Wayne County, Pine Tree Acres in Macomb County, and Brent Run in Genesee County account for 90 percent of Canadian waste being dumped in the state, according to the Department of Michigan Environmental Quality.

“Senator Levin and I were able to stop Ontario’s city waste from being dumped in our backyard, but now it’s time to stop the rest of the trash coming across the border. My legislation, the Stop Canadian Trash Act, will end the financial incentive that makes it cheaper for Canadian companies to dump their trash in Michigan landfills and make sure Homeland Security has the ability to inspect every single trash truck at the border,” said Stabenow.

Stabenow and others argue that Michigan receives more than its share of waste because it is cheap relative to other states in the region.

Michigan charges $.21 per ton compared to Illinois which charges $2.22 per ton, Iowa’s fee ranges from $3.25 to $4.75 and Wisconsin charges nearly $13 per ton. More than 46 million cubic yards of waste were deposited in Michigan landfills in 2010, with nearly 8.8 million cubic yards from Canada, according to a report from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. That number is down from 9 million yards in 2009 and 10.7 million yards in 2008 in part due to the economic downturn but also due to a deal Sen. Stabenow and fellow Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) brokered in 2006 with officials in Ontario to voluntarily reduce waste exports to Michigan.

The Stop Canadian Trash Act will require Canadian companies shipping waste to the United States to pay a $500 user fee at the border to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the resources to inspect every trash truck. The fee will be assessed on international trash trucks carrying foreign trash handled or collected by any means from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. Right now, international trash trucks generally pay $5 to haul waste into the United States and only one percent are randomly screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Sen. Stabenow now argues that it is an issue of national security and points out that only one percent of international waste trucks are screened for radiation. The new law would require all trucks be inspected and impose a $10,000 penalty each time an importer failed to provide to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection information relating to the volume and contents of each truck.

Not only will the legislation help stop Canadian trash from being dumped in Michigan, it will make the State’s border more secure. A 2006 Department of Homeland Security Report found that because so few trucks are thoroughly inspected, dangerous and/or illegal materials can be carried across the border undetected. In fact, the report discusses one instance in 2004 where 1,900 pounds of marijuana were found in the back of a trash truck after the truck received a more thorough inspection. Sen. Stabenow’s bill will help address this issue by making sure the Department of Homeland Security has the resources it needs to ensure that trash trucks are not bringing dangerous and illegal materials into Michigan.