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E-M:/ WI - Editorial: Let other states deal with own garbage

This editorial from WI has a familiar idea that's being debated in MI.

Wisconsin: Dumping Ground for the Upper Midwest.

It’s a slogan that won’t attract tourists or please environmentalists, but it has had proven appeal to garbage haulers from neighboring states.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently reported that the amount of garbage dumped here from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota nearly doubled last year from 2003, to almost 2.2 million tons.

Where is most of it originating? In Illinois, which sent more than 1.4 million tons to Wisconsin in 2004 alone, most of it to a landfill in Kenosha County.

It already was obvious four years ago that the state’s solid-waste policies and laws were not working as their authors intended. While Wisconsinites were being encouraged to recycle, the state was becoming one of the biggest garbage importers in the country. At the time, almost two tons of out-of-state garbage were going into Wisconsin landfills for every ton of household materials that Wisconsin residents and businesses recycled.

To discourage neighboring states from hauling their garbage here, the Legislature in 2002 raised the waste-dumping fee in Wisconsin to $3 per ton from 30 cents. For a couple of years, it seemed to be working. A slight decrease in out-of-state waste occurred in 2002, followed by a small increase in 2003.

But now it is rapidly growing. To address the escalating out-of-state trash, Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, wants the Legislature to pass a bill raising the dumping fee to $10 a ton from $3. And he wants the state to distribute the increased revenue to communities to help pay the cost of recycling, about 70 percent of which is now paid with local fees or property taxes. He estimates that the bill would result in about $70 million a year in income to the state and a reduction in out-of-state waste entering Wisconsin landfills.

“Encouraging other states to annually dump millions of tons of garbage in Wisconsin is bad policy,” Black said in announcing plans to introduce his legislation. “This bill will help both our environment and our property taxpayers.”

It’s a proposal the Legislature should pursue if it’s serious about controlling taxes and reducing the volume of out-of-state garbage coming into the state.