Environment Picture

Victory: State Senate committee rejects proposal to dump yard clippings in Michigan landfills

Legislation would have struck down decades-old law, threatened recent positive trend in reduction of out-of-state waste
Legislation allowing compostable yard materials to be dumped in landfills—a bill fought at every turn by MEC and our allies in the compost industry—was rejected by a Michigan Senate committee in a Nov. 7 vote. SB 314 would have opened the floodgates for more out-of-state waste and dealt a crippling blow to jobs in the state’s burgeoning compost industry.

Michigan has spent the last two decades reducing the volume of waste going into landfills. That includes limiting out-of-state trash dumped in Michigan. We have dropped from a high of more than 30 percent out-of-state waste in 2006, to less than 22 percent in 2012.

SB 314 would have allowed the disposal of yard clippings in landfills, a practice banned in Michigan since 1995 under legislation signed by then-Governor John Engler.

It was defeated in a 5-4 vote of the Senate Energy & Technology Committee. Republicans Howard Walker and James Marleau joined the panel’s Democrats in opposing the rollback.

Michigan can only prohibit compostable out-of-state waste from dumps if it bans the same items from Michigan residents. By lifting the ban on yard clippings from Michigan, we would have immediately authorized every landfill with gas collection (virtually all major landfills in the state) to accept both yard clippings and yard clippings combined with municipal solid waste from out-of-state jurisdictions.

The bill also flies in the face of policies outlined by Gov. Snyder in his special address on energy and the environment last year, where he said: “When we can redirect trash to productive use, we reduce the impact on our lands, air and water. And that’s why this is an area in which we need to do better.”

That is exactly what the current law is doing.

“This legislation would have been a step backward for Michigan,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president. “We applaud the senators who voted to protect a growing Michigan compost industry and preserve the decades-old laws that ensure the highest and best use for a valuable natural product.”

“Recycling yard clippings provides Michigan nurseries, landscapers and homeowners with a value-added, nutrient-rich compost product that creates Michigan jobs and opportunity,” said Kolb. “Throwing it back into the state’s dumps is bad economics, bad environmental policy and a violation of the sound waste management policies that the governor has supported.”

MEC Policy Director James Clift noted that the death of SB 314 is not final victory. “We’ve helped beat back this legislation several times, and it’s likely we’ll see it again in one form or another next year,” he said.
-Hugh McDiarmid
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