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Controversy over waste sent to Michigan

In light of recent controversy, there may be new opportunity for disposal technologies and landfills across Ontario...


In light of recent controversy, there may be new opportunity for disposal technologies and landfills across Ontario. On February 10, 2003, a coalition of 21 environmental and civic groups conducted a "Don’t Trash Michigan" rally at the Ambassador Bridge to get support to clean up the state’s so-called "trash can" image. The City of Toronto is paying approximately $42-million over the next three years to dispose its waste to Michigan. The city (in conjunction with the regions of Peel and York) has shipped waste there since 1998, but the volume has risen dramatically since the recent closing of the Keele Valley Landfill, to a rate of more than 1 million tonnes per year.

Michigan politicians are concerned that the waste is not inspected properly and have launched action in the U.S. Congress. The Department of Environmental Quality doesn’t regularly inspect for hazardous materials so the responsibility of screening falls to the U.S. Customs Service, whose agents are more concerned with finding weapons of mass destruction than searching the trailers for illegal waste. State officials don’t conduct regular inspections for items such as medical waste, PCBs, yard waste and motor oil. According to the Associated Press, since October 2002 seven Toronto trucks have been refused entry into the U.S.

Councillor Brad Duguid, chair of the city’s works committee, said discussions have been held about contingency plans within Ontario.

A major goal of the Don’t Trash Michigan campaign is to levy a landfill burial fee similar to that of other Great Lakes states, which charge fees of $1.27 to $3.10 a tonne. A surcharge would apply equally to imported and in-state waste so it would not violate NAFTA.

Mayors of several southern Ontario cities are also concerned about the amount of waste now hauled through their communities.

See "Garbage Crisis" in the December/January 2001 edition, "Journey of a Thousand Miles" in the August/September 2002 edition, and for upcoming analysis, see the June/July 2003 edition.

For further information, visit www.city.toronto.on.ca and www.stoptrash.org or call 416-392-8301


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