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E-M:/ RE: / Serious question re landfills and imported trash



Title: RE: / Serious question re landfills and imported trash

Happy New Year!

Folks, jmgear raises questions that go to the context of the concern of some about out-of-state municipal trash disposed in landfills located in Michigan.  I see one issue of interest in this controversy:  There may be an opportunity to derive some revenue for the state by increasing the 'tipping fee,' but to what purpose will that revenue be put?  Other so-called issues about out-of-state trash just don't get traction with me.  In fact, some of jmgear's questions, which may appear cynical to some, resonate with me, mainly because I do not see any coherent, state-wide environmental initiatives on more critical issues being advanced in Michigan by public interest groups.

Perhaps the most intractable issue in Michigan is land use--development patterns, expectations for residential settings, consequent public expenditures for infrastructure (especially roads) and energy consumption attendant such land use.  This issue does not get the attention it deserves from our environmental constituency.

Just some thoughts.

~Peter Collins




-----Original Message-----
From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net on behalf of jmgear
Sent: Thu 12/29/2005 4:03 PM
To: E-M
Subject: E-M:/ Serious question re landfills and imported trash

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Enviro-Mich message from jmgear <jmgear@acd.net>
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    If I can, I'd like to ask either a serious (or a seriously stupid
question) and get some responses from people here:

                        What exactly is wrong with importing trash into
Michigan?

    We (Michiganders) don't seem to be "against" trash in any sense of
the word that I can see -- we produce endless tons of it and have weak
recycling programs and declining participation in those.
    We have no laws that require manufacturers to minimize waste or to
accept responsibilty for dealing with discarded packaging or products
they send to others.
    Our stores are filled to the rafters and beyond with intentionally
disposable products, including many with heavy metal content and other
toxins ("technical materials" in the worlds of the "cradle to cradle"
guys); many of us buy those products, such as the computers used to read
this.
    Every day our rivers and streams receive copious volumes of wastes
washed off of impermeable surfaces (oil, gas, chemicals) and we can't
even remove all the pharmaceuticals and chemicals we pour into them from
our "sanitary" systems.

    Of the three places where waste/pollution can go (land, air, water),
the one that seems least constrained (furthest from any sort of natural
limit, beyond which the sink fails to function) is land.

    On the other hand, Michigan exports many, many, many tons of
airborne wastes, including mercury that pollutes the foodchain, from
powerplant stacks.
    As the state that, until recently, built more cars than anyone else,
we are probably more responsible for destabilizing the climate and for
promoting carburban sprawl than any other group of people in the world.

    Is the issue that solid waste is just so darn visible, while CO2 and
airborne mercury (which enters watersheds) are not?
    Or is the issue that Canadian trash is not "our" trash, or that it's
somehow more toxic, more dangerous? 
    Or is it that we believe that one group of people should not be
allowed to export their wastes at all?
    Or is it just that WE shouldn't accept other peoples' wastes?
    Or is waste from Ohio and Indiana and Illinois OK, but not waste
from Toronto?
    Or is landfill space actually in much tighter supply than it
appears?  (Lord knows I'd rather be near a landfill than a CAFO.)
    Or is it just that we don't get enough $$ in return (hence, the
proposal to raise the tipping fee).

    I must admit that, at times, it seems to me that the only reason
people want me to get excited about Canadian trash is that it's the ONLY
issue that "environmentalists" have found that gets "regular folks"
upset and yet doesn't ask those same "regular folks" to do anything
differently.
    Thus, people in Michigan opposing Canadian trash imports get to feel
like they are fighting for the environment without asking anyone here to
stop having kids or to drive less, consume less, waste less, etc.

   So, boiled down, I guess another way to ask the question is this:
   Why should Canadian trash imports even be in the top 20 Michigan
environmental concerns I should care about?

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