On March 26, 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.
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 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. 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, explained, “We’ve delivered on our pledge to pursue aggressive diversion plans. 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 percentage translates into a diversion of 287,000 tonnes of residential waste annually.”
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 the amount of Toronto waste bound for Michigan will decline steadily over the coming years.
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.
Contact Geoff Rathbone, 416-392-4715.