Monday, January 25, 2010

The Trash Paradox

There has been a lot of rhetoric lately about Michigan's loss of revenue from imported garbage. We are importing less trash due to the struggling economy. Or in other words, people are consuming less. A few years ago I worked for Clean Water Action and if there is one thing that most Metro Detroiters agree on, it is that importing garbage from neighboring states is a bad deal.

Another bad deal is relying on imported garbage to fund necessary programs. In this case, Great Lakes Echo reports that the garbage fees go towards landfill inspection to make sure that the landfill is safe. This creates a paradox. The more garbage we take in, the more liability we assume. What do we get out of it? If we're lucky we can fund the landfill inspection program. It is easy to see that this is a bad deal for Michigan.

Other states don't charge Michigan's measly 21 cents per ton, because they know that importing trash is bad business. Ohio charges $4.75 per ton while Wisconsin charges $12.98 per ton. The solution seems to be to modestly raise the rate 35 cents according to the Great Lakes Echo article. That would help short-term, but something is fundamentally broken here. Relying on imported garbage to raise revenue just shows how desperate and cash strapped the state is.

Here are the top 5 five counties for solid waste imports measured by cubic volume.

Macomb County: 3,741,197
Wayne: 2,855,857
Genesee: 2,393,825
Monroe: 1,742,990
Berrien: 1,277,146

MDEQ Report of Solid Waste Landfilled in Michigan

When a garbage decline is bad for the environment

Opportunity at the trash dumps

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