Everybody Hates Garbage

1 Feb 2013

MDEQ has released its annual report on the sources and disposal of solid waste in Michigan. Solid waste is what most of us think of as garbage or trash (and not to be confused with “sanitary waste”) and includes industrial waste and demolition waste.

The 2012 report is interesting in that it shows: (1) a year-to-year decrease in waste disposed of in Michigan; (2) a slight increase in statewide disposal capacity to 28 years due to some landfill expansion permits issued; (3) roughly 22% of all waste landfilled in Michigan originated in 13 other states and Canada; (4) most of that waste was from Canada, despite efforts by Michigan’s Senators to stop all Canadian waste from entering Michigan.

Most interesting to me is that while the economy has certainly picked up over the last few years, the amount of waste being generated and landfilled (which usually tracks economic activity) has not.  Perhaps the last few years of business austerity have led to more efficiency at work and less waste at home.

Solid waste has been something of a hot topic in Michigan since the early 2000’s. In 2003, MDEQ studied shipments of waste into and originating in Michigan.  The study showed that less than 1/2% of all incoming waste contained any garbage prohibited from Michigan landfills and most of that originated in other states and not Canada.   In 2004, the Governor signed 11 bills into law, including these two, with the goal of trying to close Michigan’s borders to out-of-state waste. In 2005, the study was repeated and again, over 90% of all waste shipments had no offending contents.  Based on the most recent report, it appears that the legislative effort was, at best, partly successful as the percentage and amount of out-of-state waste dropped only slightly.

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