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Trash deal turns trucks around

January 25, 2011
By Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin

We all remember the headlines when Toronto closed its landfill in 2003 and started shipping all their trash to Michigan. It was outrageous that Michigan had become Canada's dumping ground. This trash poses health, safety, and security threats to Michigan families and our communities, which is why we have made it our priority to stop the trash.

The root of the Canadian trash problem is simple economics. Michigan's trash dumping charge is the lowest in the region, which turned our Great Lakes State into a magnet for garbage from Toronto and other Ontario cities. Instead of using their own landfills, Ontario cities started filling up ours. Although these dumping charges are set by the state, we took the fight to stop the trash to Congress. Legislative efforts in the U.S. House and Senate got the attention of the Canadians.

In the summer of 2006, our efforts brought Ontario officials to the negotiating table and together we hammered out an agreement that Ontario would stop sending their city trash to Michigan by the end of 2010. We are pleased to report that the agreement worked. As of Dec. 31, 2010, Toronto and three other municipalities stopped sending their city trash to Michigan.

This Stabenow-Levin agreement literally slams the brakes on 1.5 million tons of Ontario's city waste that otherwise would be dumped in our backyard every year.

Of all the proposed solutions to deal with Canadian trash, this is the only one that has shown a real, measurable reduction in waste coming into our state. In fact, more than 40,000 truckloads of trash would be entering Michigan each year had we not reached this agreement. Many legal experts feel that if proposed federal legislation to simply ban Canadian trash passes, it will be subject to lengthy court challenges under international laws for many years. One of the reasons our agreement has been successful is because it could not be challenged in court.

Canada has always been a great neighbor and we want to thank the Ontario officials and citizens who worked with us over the last four years to honor their agreement with our state. While this is an important victory, the fight is not over. In the coming months we will turn our attention to stopping the non-municipally managed waste coming into our state from private companies that was not covered by this agreement. We won't give up until all trash trucks coming into our great state from Canada are stopped.

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Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow are Michigan's U.S. senators.

 
 

 

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