Talking trash

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By the time you finish reading this, Michigan will have received more than seven tons of trash from around the nation and Canada. State House Democrats claim that every minute more than seven tons of garbage are imported to our fair state. In fact, they have gone so far as to invent the Trash-O-Meter, a very large digital clock that tracks imported waste by the minute.

“It’s performance art,” says State Rep. Katheleen Law, D-Gibraltar. Law and fellow Dems use the clock to show the public just how much trash Michigan takes in. The seven-tons-per-minute figure is based on 2002 figures from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, says Law.

Nearly 200 garbage trucks come from Canada each day to dispose trash in Michigan; hundreds more come from states across the country, she says.

The Dems say their Republicans colleagues have ignored bills that would cut down on imported trash, and Trash-O-Meter is a response.

State Rep. Paul Gieleghem, D-Clinton Township, reintroduced bills in January that did not come out of committee last year. He says that the Republicans — and waste management lobbyists whose clients make a mint off trash disposal — have made sure his bills “do not see the light of day.”

The first bill would allow Michigan to reject trash from states that have a less-stringent regulatory system. The other adds returnable containers to the list of items prohibited from disposal in Michigan landfills.

In Michigan, residents wait in line to return bottles and cans. Meanwhile residents of other states trash theirs because it’s cheaper than recycling them, says Gieleghem.

“If my bills pass, it will make it somewhat more challenging to import waste here and force them to come up with their own waste management solutions,” he says, about other states and Canada.

But State Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, says that Republicans are not ignoring the bills. Johnson chairs the Land Use and Environment committee, which she says held hearings on the bills last year. She wants further discussion since the bills might violate the state Constitution, says Johnson. But while Republicans talk trash, refuse is piling up. According to the Trash-O-Meter, which is ticking away at, Michigan has imported more than 2.5 million tons of garbage since the end of January.

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