Canada Kicks Ass

Coalition in Michigan wants burial fee to keep out Canadian trash
Date: Tuesday, February 11 2003
Topic: International News


U.S. federal law and international treaties may keep Michigan from banning trash
from Canada and other states, but a burial fee on all trash might achieve the
same goal, advocates said Monday.

A coalition of 21 environmental, religious and civic groups launched the Don't Trash Michigan campaign with a news conference at the Ambassador Bridge, which links Detroit with Windsor, Ont.

In recent weeks, a steady stream of garbage-filled trucks has been crossing the border, carrying the refuse of Toronto for burial at a landfill in Wayne County's Sumpter Township, about 40 kilometres southeast of Detroit.

The City of Toronto is paying about $42 million Cdn over the next three years to ship its waste to Michigan.

Meanwhile, mayors of several cities in southwestern Ontario are trying to arrange a meeting with Premier Ernie Eves to discuss their concerns about Toronto's trash being trucked to Michigan.

The mayors don't like the fact that 130 transport trucks full of Toronto garbage pass their communities every day.

A spokesman for Eves said the premier has not yet decided on a meeting. The mayors want Eves to personally get involved in finding another solution to Toronto's garbage problem.

In 2001, Michigan imported 3.6 million tonnes of trash, about one-fifth of the state's total trash.

Toronto used to ship 60 per cent of its garbage to Michigan. Starting Jan. 1, the city began trucking 100 per cent of its garbage to Michigan, mostly to the Carleton Farms landfill in Sumpter Township. In 2001, on the other hand, Michigan sent 53,000 tonnes of hazardous waste to Sarnia.

"We can change Michigan's 'dump on us' policies right here at home," said Michael Garfield, director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. "And until we do, we will continue to be the Great Trash State."

A central idea of the Don't Trash Michigan campaign is to levy a landfill burial fee on all trash, he said.

Such a surcharge would apply equally to imported and in-state waste, so it would not be a violation of interstate commerce or the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said.

"That is something that's been floating around as a solution to address some budget issues and may be make it less economical to import trash to Michigan," said Patricia Spitzley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Spitzley said her department is researching the fee proposal, but has yet to come down on either side of the issue, either as a budget booster or a dumping deterrent.

The coalition says a fee would remove the economic incentive to dump trash in Michigan, the only Great Lakes state that does not levy a solid waste surcharge.

Indiana charges up to $3.10 US per tonne while the cost is $1.27 in Illinois, Spitzley said. Wisconsin charges $3 a tonne, Ohio charges $1.75, and Pennsylvania charges $2 a tonne, plus $1 a tonne for the host community, she said.

The fee also would encourage recycling of waste generated in Michigan, Garfield said. The coalition proposes giving the money raised by fees to local recycling programs.

The coalition also wants the law changed to ban importation of trash that does not meet Michigan's standards, such as trash containing yard waste, used motor oil or tires.

Garfield said Michigan should send inspectors to Canada to ensure that garbage being shipped to this state is safe.

"Michigan needs first and foremost to place more restrictions on the way waste can flow across borders."

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said in last week's state of the state speech that she wants to stop Michigan from becoming "the nation's trash can."

Among the members of Don't Trash Michigan are the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, League of Conservation Voters, Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council and League of Women Voters.

© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press





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