Protect Michigan’s Yard Debris Ban

This message is reposted from the US Composting Council’s Protect Michigan’s Yard Debris Ban campaign. Click here to send the message to your senator that the curent yard waste law needs to stay in effect.

Michigan HB 4265 and HB 4266 would exempt landfills with gas recovery systems from the state’s longstanding ban on landfill disposal of yard trimmings.

There are many reasons to oppose these Grass-to-Landfill Gas bills including:

  • Will hurt or put out of business the 75 operations registered in Michigan as composting facilities. Along with this will be a loss of potentially hundreds of jobs.  According to The Institute for Local Self Reliance, on a per-ton basis, composting creates four times as many jobs as landfilling or incinerating the same material.
  • Will not contribute to energy independence. Yard trimmings, due to its high lignin content, decomposes slowly and only partially in a landfill environment, contributing an insignificant amount to Michigan’s energy needs. The landfill energy argument is a convenient smoke screen to obscure the real goal:  increased revenues at landfills at the expense of recovery via composting.
  • Will hurt the environment. Landfill gas collection systems capture 60 to 90% at various times of operation, according to the EPA.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that over a landfill’s entire life that rate may be as low as 20%.  The remainder of the methane is released to the atmosphere.  Landfill gases have been viewed historically as local nuisances.  We now know these gases have the potential to impact our environment today and in the future.  The global warming impact of methane is 25 times higher than carbon dioxide.  Reducing the amount of biodegradable materials flowing into landfills – such as through composting – is the best way to reduce methane landfill emissions. Composting also has numerous other environmental benefits including improved water dynamics, reduced irrigation needs, healthier plants, and improved stormwater management.  Michigan’s composts could reap many benefits for the state’s agricultural crops.
  • Landfills do not responsibly process yard trimmings.  Contrary to landfill gas industry claims, landfills are not equally capable of responsibly processing yard trimmings as compost operations.  Compost is a valuable soil amendment product with multiple and growing markets. It is widely recognized for its ability to restore depleted soils, manage erosion, and increase crop yields.  Compost is a high-value product.  Furthermore, landfill bans extend the life of landfills, thereby reducing the costs of siting, zoning, building, and maintaining new landfills in the State.
  • Contradicts Michigan’s own laws. Act 451, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Part 115, Solid Waste Management, section 324/11514, states in part “The state shall develop policies and practices that promote recycling and reuse of materials and, to the extent practical, minimize the use of landfilling as a method for disposal of its waste.” Burying yard trimmings in landfills, methane collection or not, is NOT recycling, because there is no return to use.  Capturing landfill gas is not a form of recycling.  It is an end-of-pipe option.
  • Primarily benefits one corporation at the expense of many Michigan businesses.  By far the biggest beneficiary of this legislation would be the Granger corporation, which operates 16 landfill gas projects in six states.   But it would jeopardize the operations of dozens of businesses and hamper the ability to grow the composting industry in Michigan at a time when composting is expanding from coast to coast.  Composters and other recyclers of organic waste are generating high value products used to support a variety of important industries, such as agriculture, horticulture, landscaping, stormwater management, and erosion control.  Markets for compost continue to grow.
  • This legislation co-mingles trimmings and solid waste.  This would allow importation of out-of-state yard waste into Michigan landfills, turning Michigan into a waste dump
  • Contradicts the position of Solid Waste Management Association of North America (SWANA), the national association representing the landfill industry. In a joint position statement in 2006 by SWANA and the USCC, it states that advances in landfill technology “should be accomplished without encouraging more organics to be placed in landfills, and without reversing hard won and effective programs and regulatory efforts that have raised recycling rates for organic residuals. Energy recovery, in bioreactor or conventional landfills, must be pursued without relaxing recycling initiatives and without improperly creating incentives for more land disposal.” The joint position paper is attached for your review.
This entry was posted on April 13, 2012, in Policy. Bookmark the permalink.