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Published: Tuesday, 1/18/2011

Canada's trash exports to Michigan targeted


Canada has kept its promise to reduce trash exports to Michigan by 40 percent.

But those 40,000 annual truckloads consist only of household garbage collected by Toronto and other Ontario municipalities.

The other 60 percent, or 60,000 truckloads a year, consists of commercial and industrial waste, construction debris, and possibly other residential waste transported by private haulers.

The flow of that material continues across the U.S.-Canada border into Michigan, where disposal fees are generally cheaper than they are in Canada.

"I'm not going to stop until we get the other 60,000 truckloads stopped," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) told reporters during a conference call Monday.

The closest most of the Canadian trash exports got to the Toledo area was Carleton Farms landfill in southern Wayne County, which accepted Canadian waste for years. It's just across the Monroe County line.

The U.S.-Canada border was opened to garbage haulers in 1992. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, trash is a tradable commodity.

In 2003, Toronto said it was closing its last remaining landfill. It said it was shipping that city's waste to Michigan along with that collected from other Ontario municipalities.

In August, 2006, Ms. Stabenow and Michigan's other U.S. senator, Carl Levin, struck a deal with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to end exports of household refuse by the end of 2010.

During her call with reporters, Ms. Stabenow said Canada honored the agreement.

The province has since made other arrangements within Canada and has stepped up recycling, she said.

"The bottom line is they kept their word and 40,000 fewer trash trucks are coming into Michigan each year," Ms. Stabenow said.

The agreement is not binding.

Ms. Stabenow said state and federal officials will examine rates of Michigan landfills to see what can be done about getting fees more in line with what's charged in Canada without disrupting the delicate balance with neighboring states such as Ohio.

The Interstate Commerce Clause allows trash to be moved from one state to another within the United States, and NAFTA allows the cross-border hauling among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Haulers often shop around and drive long distances if rates are low enough to make trips viable.

"This is all about economics if we're going to stop the rest of the waste," Ms. Stabenow said.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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