It’s official: Michigan throws out less stuff

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By QING ZHANG
Capital News Service
LANSING — Despite a slight increase in Michigan’s population, solid waste generated in the state in 2013 declined 0.5 percent, continuing a 10-year trend, according to a report by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Origin of Michigan trash imports. Source: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality solid waste report

Origin of Michigan trash imports. Source: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality solid waste report


And the state still has almost three decades’ worth of landfill capacity, the report said.
Waste imported from other states and Canada increased by more than 8 percent.
Canada is the largest source of imported trash, accounting for about 17 percent of the total waste landfilled in Michigan last year, according to the report.

“Compared with residential waste, we are receiving more commercial and industrial waste from our neighbor,” said Brad Wurfel, communications director for DEQ, and that may signify increased economic activities.
The amount and sources of imported waste largely depend on the market, Wurfel said. It is cheaper for others to transport and dispose of solid waste in Michigan landfills.
Other factors that influence the flow of waste include disposal capabilities and types of landfills. According to the Michigan Waste Industries Association, the state “relies on Canada to process all types of electronic scrap and recycled paper” and exports “significant quantities of hazardous, low-level radioactive and medical waste to other states.”
Actually, “there are really no borders for waste materials,” said Tom Horton, government affairs manager for Waste Management Co. of Michigan.
Horton said the most important information in the DEQ report is the trend of a decline in all sources of solid waste generated in Michigan and nationally.
“If you look at one year, you don’t see a very good snapshot of what’s really going on, but if you go back and look at the report 10 years ago, you’ll see some really important trends,” he said. “Since 2004, waste generated in Michigan is down about 30 percent, and since 2006, waste coming from Canada is also down about 30 percent.”
Dan Batts, president of the Michigan Waste Industry Association, and Wurfel both said recycling practices for managing solid waste contribute to the decline in the amount produced.
“Our association membership has been promoting curbside recycling throughout the state,” Batts said. As a result, the amount of waste “continues to decline because of those programs that we are putting in place.”