Trash talk: What Michigan wants to do to slow imported trash dumping across the state

Trash import debate
Posted at 2:54 PM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 08:20:22-05

ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy in conjunction with the governor’s office is looking to raise the state’s tipping fee.

A tipping fee is a fee paid by trash haulers to the state for every ton of municipal solid waste dumped in Michigan landfills. Currently, the state of Michigan charges 36 cents per ton, which is drastically lower than surrounding states.

Phil Roos is the executive director of EGLE. Roos says states around Michigan charge $5.30 on average for their tipping fees. He says Michigan’s low tipping fee has made the state a magnet for imported trash from other states and Canada.

Every year, Michiganders throw out millions of tons of trash. Roos says nearly 25% of the trash comes from other states and Canada.

“I think we can all agree, we put too much into landfills. It’s a handy place to put our trash but when you add to that almost 25% of it coming from out of state, it creates its own contamination issue or risk,” Roos said.

Because trash is considered a commodity, the state cannot ban it from being brought here altogether. EGLE is now advocating for the state tipping fee to be raised to $5.00 per ton to slow the flow of imported trash.

While EGLE did not mention any potential added costs for state residents, they say the increased fee stands to rake in up to $80 million and would go toward remediating the 26,000 known contaminated sites across the state.

“The money will go into three primary areas: cleaning up contaminated sites, that 26,000 number of known contaminated sites, brownfield redevelopment and helping to promote our recycling efforts, which is another piece of the puzzle here. That’s really important,” Roos said.

EGLE says this could also buy more time for landfills that are filling up at alarming rates. It's a plan Michiganders say they can get behind.

Tony DeCarolis lives near the Eagle Valley Landfill in Orion Township. He says over the 10-plus years he’s lived in his neighborhood, he’s watched the landfill grow larger and larger.

“More than anything, it’s an eye sore and it’s like it’s a mountain all of a sudden. Before, you couldn’t see it behind the houses. Now, it just pops up from every angle,” DeCarolis said.

DeCarolis says there are always health concerns in the back of his mind because of the landfill.

“They say that it’s regulated and contained and they’re measuring the levels of everything, but it is close enough that you do always have concerns about ground water,” he said. “I hear all these businesses are safe but then every couple years, you hear about all these ground water contamination (incidents) from a closed plant. Then, you get this giant dump with all these toxins off course that’s going to leak somewhere."

7 Action News reached out to multiple landfill owners and companies for added context but only received one reply back, directing us to The Michigan Waste and Recycling Association. The association sent the following statement:

“The Michigan Waste and Recycling Association (MWRA) is currently reviewing the budget proposal to increase Michigan’s solid waste tipping fee by 1,289% to $5 on each ton of solid waste.

This proposal is initially concerning due to the impact it would have on all Michiganders. An increase of this magnitude would add costs to virtually every household and business in the state as well as local governments, hospitals, public safety organizations, and school districts.

The environmentally safe, efficient, and affordable collection and management of waste materials is essential to public health and safety, all while supporting business and economic growth. As more details emerge, we look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature on this proposal. In the meantime, Michigan’s waste and recycling industry will continue to provide essential services in the communities we serve and call home.”

-Michigan Waste and Recycling Association

If all goes according to plan, EGLE says they’re hoping to see action on this proposal before the end of the year.

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