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[GreenYes] Fwd: Michigan bill seeks ban on city's garbage (
Thu Mar 8, 2001 - Updated at 08:49 AM
Mar. 8, 2001. 12:04 AM
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Michigan bill seeks ban on city's garbage
Legislation would bar bottles, cans from state landfills
Moira Welsh and John Duncanson
Michigan legislators have introduced a bill that would ban Toronto's garbage from state landfill sites and ultimately force the city to reopen the controversial Adams Mine debate.

The bill - banning all out-of-state garbage containing refundable pop bottles, cans and wine coolers - would directly affect Toronto because Ontario has limited bottle refund programs that eliminate those containers from city trash.

Democratic Senator Ken DeBeaussaert worked on the bill with environmental activists and introduced it yesterday in the Michigan Senate.

``Any state or country that isn't removing these items would be in violation of Michigan law and until they comply with our law, Michigan would block their shipments,'' DeBeaussaert said.

Florida-based Republic Services won Toronto's garbage contract after the deal to send the trash north to Kirkland Lake's abandoned Adams Mine broke down last fall.

Toronto needs a landfill site large enough to handle its massive amounts of trash and many believe the only two practical landfills within shipping distance are Michigan's Carleton Farms and Adams Mine.

Matt Neely, a spokesperson for Republic Services, said yesterday he doesn't think the bill will pass because Michigan landfills still take in some non-refundable containers, such as juice bottles, from state municipalities.

``I think a ban isn't likely. I don't think it's practical and I don't think it will pass,'' Neely said.

The Republicans hold a 22-14 majority over the Democrats in the Senate. Two districts each have a vacant seat.

The bill has been described by waste industry observers as a ``brilliant play.''

It is essentially a back-door way of forcing Toronto to take care of its garbage in its own province - whether by forcing the city to speed up recycling programs that the Michigan environmentalists support or by forcing Toronto to reconsider the Adams Mine site.

It does not seek to close the state's borders, which would not be allowed under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but attempts to hold all outside garbage up to the same environmental standards as Michigan's.

James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council, said state residents recycle 98 per cent of the bottles and cans that fall under its refund program.

Since the bill seeks only to force outsiders to recognize the same laws as Michigan residents, it may very well pass muster of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, Clift said.

``I think that according to U.S. law, as long as you do a ban that applies equally to your local citizens as well as people out of state, it is not void due to constitutional problems.''

The news that Toronto's garbage could be turned away from Michigan landfill sites is good news for the proponents of Adams Mine, who are still working behind the scenes to force the city into reopening the $1 billion, 20-year contract.

There is already a lobby movement under way in Michigan promoting the interests of Adams Mine.

`I don't know that an existing contract would protect anyone'

A lawyer from Michigan's top law firm, Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone, contacted Michigan Governor John Engler's office and requested help to stop Toronto's trash from being shipped south.

The lawyer supplied Engler's office with the name and phone number of one of Premier Mike Harris' top aides and the end result was a Feb. 6 letter pressuring Mayor Mel Lastman to send the garbage north.

Until Engler's letter to Lastman, Democrats and their supporters in the environmental field have seen the governor as a foe in their efforts to limit out-of-state-garbage.

``I hope he is going to (support the bill), although I'm kind of leery,'' Clift said of Engler, a Republican. ``When he has to decide between protecting public health and industry interests, more times than not he sides with the industry.''

News of the bill was greeted with outrage by Toronto Councillor Betty Disero, who heads the works committee that oversees the garbage issue. ``Everybody is posturing and I'm sure there are still some very powerful influences trying to get us to Kirkland Lake, but the fact at the end of the day is we have a signed contract,'' Disero (Ward 17, Davenport) said.

But DeBeaussaert said a signed contract would not likely make a difference if Michigan can enact the ban.

``If we take action to remove things from our waste stream, I don't know that an existing contract would protect anyone,'' he said.

For example, since Michigan prohibits its own communities from dumping yard waste, it is also able to ban out-of-state garbage containing the same waste, he said.

Ontario and Manitoba are the only provinces in Canada that do not have a bottle return program beyond refunds for beer bottles, says Shelley Petrie, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

In fact, the Ontario government stopped Toronto from enacting a municipal deposit return bylaw for wine and liquor bottles in December, 1998, by passing legislation against it, Petrie said.

As a result, Toronto's Blue Box recycling program takes in less than 40 per cent of bottles. The city's many apartment buildings have a recycling rate of about 20 per cent.

The bill must receive support from both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, and get Engler's signature, before it can be passed.

It will now go to the natural resources and environmental affairs committee for hearings. The bill can survive for two years before a final decision is made on its approval.
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