Toronto responds to Michigan's new solid waste legislation

Today, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed 11 new solid waste bills into law at a location just outside the Carlton Farms Landfill, in Sumpter Township, which currently accepts Toronto’s residual waste for disposal. The bills were signed with "immediate effect," meaning they will likely become law by Monday, March 29, 2004.

This package of bills is designed to restrict the import of waste into Michigan regardless of its origin, whether that be from neighbouring states or from Canada. One bill affords the State of Michigan emergency powers to close its border to waste in the event of imminent and substantial health, safety and environmental threats. Another crucial bill expands the list of materials prohibited from landfill to include tires and beverage containers (carbonated beverages pop/carbonated water, coolers and beer). There is also a bill that requires pre-registration and certification of waste generators and one that requires the state to conduct additional inspections and impose higher fines for any violations.

Since the closure of Toronto’s local landfill at the end of 2002, Toronto has sent all of its residual waste for disposal to the Carlton Farms Landfill owned and operated by Republic Services. According to a plan detailed in the Task Force 2010 Report approved by Toronto City Council in 2001, Toronto will eliminate its dependence on Michigan landfills by 2010.

Councillor Pitfield, Chair of Toronto’s Works Committee, explains, "We’ve delivered on our pledge to pursue aggressive diversion plans that result in a very measurable decrease of trucks hauling Toronto waste to Michigan. The number of trucks peaked in 2003 and is already on the decline. We met and exceeded our diversion goal for 2003 which was 30 per cent diversion by achieving 32 per cent. This 32 per cent translates into a diversion of 287,000 tonnes of residential waste annually. If this material had not been diverted, more than 8,000 more transport trucks would have made that round-trip to Michigan."

Toronto politicians and City staff have already exchanged information and site visits with U.S. counterparts in a spirit of collaboration to resolve any issues regarding Toronto’s waste export. Last fall, solid waste planning officials from the City of Toronto testified at Michigan Legislative hearings on out-of-state waste. Angelos Bacopoulos, General Manager of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services division, and its Director of Policy and Planning, Geoff Rathbone, told members of the Michigan Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs that Toronto is working diligently to solve its long term waste management needs and the amount of Toronto waste bound for Michigan will decline steadily over the coming years.

The City of Toronto exports only non-hazardous, residual solid waste. Toronto waste transfer stations do not accept medical waste consisting of pathological, bio-hazardous or infectious materials. The City has installed radiation detectors at its seven waste transfer stations to detect potentially radioactive items before they are loaded for export to landfills. This was done quickly as a result of some Michigan reports of radioactive waste in Toronto’s waste export. These findings were the result of extremely sensitive testing equipment at the border detecting minute quantities of radioactive waste coming from non-hazardous items such as discarded smoke detectors, used fluorescent lamps or diaper waste set out by residents undergoing radiation treatments.

Angelos Bacopoulos outlines, "We are confident that Toronto’s waste is ‘cleaner’ than Michigan waste. Any diversion plan takes time to fully implement and we are asking for patience from the Michigan lawmakers. At the same time, we urge Toronto residents and businesses to continue with their best efforts to fully participate in our current recycling programs as well as any new waste reduction programs and services." City staff are reporting to the next Works Committee meeting on the details of how to achieve the goal of 60 per cent diversion by 2006 and how the implementation of appropriate New and Emerging Technologies will help reach diversion targets.

Councillor Pitfield adds, "Although we do take the signing of today’s bills very seriously, there is a positive side to it, as it also puts pressure on us to ensure that we reach our diversion goals."

Transboundary movement of waste is part of the solid waste management industry. Not only do other municipalities in Ontario export waste to Michigan, so do such American states as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Similarly, Michigan itself is a major exporter of hazardous waste, sending as much as 55,000 tonnes of this material annually to Ontario.

The City of Toronto understands that there may be legal challenges to this bill package from some U.S. organizations.

For more information, see the City of Toronto’s Web site news release postings to view the accompanying backgrounder, which summarizes the Michigan solid waste bills.

Contact Geoff Rathbone, Director – Policy & Planning, Solid Waste Management Services, Works & Emergency Services, 416-392-4715

Summary of new Michigan Solid Waste legislation

Places Moratorium on Michigan Landfill Development
In order to stabilize supply/demand imbalance, a two-year moratorium to allow time to amend County requirements.

Requires Certification
Transfer stations would have to document that they have removed items prohibited in Michigan landfills/ or the generating jurisdiction must prove that it has the same landfill prohibitions as Michigan.

Restricts Out of State Shipments
Where there is a ‘substantial threat’ to public health, safety or the environment, the Director can stop the shipment of waste from outside Michigan for 30-60 days if it would minimize or eliminate the threat.

Prohibits Disposal of Certain Items
Would prohibit all oil, lead acid batteries, low level radioactive waste, hazardous waste, asbestos, PCBs, cathode ray tubes.

Prohibits all but ‘de minimis’ amounts of: beverage containers, tires, yard waste.

Increases Inspections and Fines for Violations

Inspections would be undertaken by county, Michigan DEQ (Department Environmental Quality) and State Police at each landfill at least four times per year. Random inspections would also be allowed. Fines for violations would be increased to $25,000 per day (current fine is $10,000 per day).

For detailed information on the individual Senate and House of Representative Bills, view the Michigan legislature Web site at:
or refer to the attached list of Michigan Bills (you must enter the Bill # to access details on the above Web site).

Michigan Solid Waste Bills

Senate Bill 57: Gives border-closing authority to the DEQ (Department Environmental Quality) Director for health and safety reasons.

Senate Bill 497: Beverage Container Definition. Defines beverage containers as carbonated soda, water, beer and wine coolers consistent with Michigan Beverage Container Deposit Return System.

Senate Bill 498: Beverage container and whole tire ban. Adds beverage containers and whole tires to items banned from landfills. De minimis amount are allowed. De minimis language also applies to yard waste.

Senate Bill 499: Authorizes State Police inspections of waste loads.

Senate Bill 500: $25,000 per day fine for second violation of banned material.

Senate Bill 502: DEQ notification requirements. The department is required to notify other states and countries of items banned from Michigan landfills and notify Michigan landfill operators which states and countries have equivalent bans and qualify to send waste to Michigan.

Senate Bill 506: Landfill expansion moratorium imposed until January 1, 2

Senate Bill 557: Requires landfills to annually report remaining landfill capacity.

Senate Bill 715: Counties wi
ll help the state police and the DEQ conduct waste inspections.

House Bill 5234: Waste must meet Michigan standards, be a singular type of waste or have been processed at a transfer station to remove banned items. Lifts county landfill siting requirement if adequate capacity exists within 150 miles.

House Bill 5235: Solid waste haulers must provide annual notification to customers of items banned from landfills. DEQ required to post banned item information on its web site.