Proposal would allow some Michigan waste dumping

By Saodat Asanova-Taylor

Capital News Service

LANSING – Operators of compost companies and public agencies in Michigan are criticizing legislative bills that might put them out of business.

The bills propose modifying the 17-year-old ban on dumping yard waste in landfills. They would allow some disposal in landfills instead of requiring composting.

Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, one of the sponsors, said the measure is necessary for creating renewable energy resources.

A Michigan bill would allow yard waste to go to landfills, which some argue would hurt the environment and composting businesses. Photo: unc.edu

The other sponsor of the legislations is Rep. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth.

“It will allow collection of yard waste only for those landfills that will use a gas collection system and then create alternative energy from it. The ban will still be in place for all the other landfills,” Opsommer said.

Yard waste combined with other trash can produce 10 percent more methane to generate electricity and heat, he said.

According to Opsommer, the change would be a good opportunity for business groups, unions and energy innovators to produce more alternative energy.

Michigan banned the disposal of yard waste in landfills in 1996, to reduce the need for new dumps and to encourage a greater use of composting to turn waste into nutrient-rich humus, according to the West Michigan Environmental Action Council in Grand Rapids.

Over the years, the ban encouraged a growing industry that created valuable compost for farms, gardens and homes.

Meanwhile, compost business owners say they are concerned they won’t be able to compete with big energy companies to buy yard waste from landfills. Currently, their own trucks collect yard waste or waste is brought in by individuals and private companies.

James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council, said the bills would cripple family-owned compost businesses.

“We strongly disagree with this proposal,” he said, adding that years ago the state encouraged these businesses and now legislators are “pulling the rug out from under their feet.”

Michigan has 134 compost operations, including 30 to 40 private businesses. The rest are public entities run by counties. The number of employees working at each business is estimated to be between four and 15 people, according to the Michigan Environmental Council.

“These businesses run profitable operations. They produce nutrient-rich soil products and create jobs,” Clift said, “but the legislators would guarantee bankruptcy.”

Tom Turner, owner of Spurt Industries in Zeeland, Mich., said his business would not survive if the legislation passes. The company has other Michigan locations in Ada, Byron Center, Wixom and Lansing.

“The bill will allow garbage trucks to pick up yard waste, which would take away 90 percent of my raw material,” he said. “We will no longer be receiving enough to maintain our business. It will ruin us.”

Michael Nicholson, vice president of WeCare Organics in Ann Arbor, said the legislation is a bad approach, both economically and environmentally.

“Landfill gas escapes uncontrollably and land waste spoils quickly. A representation that it is effective or somehow efficient renewable energy is a complete misrepresentation,” Nicholson said.

Methane produced by decomposition of yard waste in landfills can generate electricity, but 30-50 percent of methane from landfills goes into the atmosphere before capture systems start to burn it, according to the Michigan Environmental Council.

“You will lose more gas than generate energy. The leaks can have a tremendous impact on the environment, polluting the air and water. Composting yard waste is a safer way to promote the government’s idea of ‘Pure Michigan’,” Nicholson said.

Meanwhile, Elisa Seltzer, Emmet County director of the Michigan Department of Public Works, said a shortage of yard waste would affect private and public businesses.

“In Emmet County, we have a strong history of waste management practices. Since 2005, we have built a successful operation that turns yard waste into high-quality compost. Landscapers, gardeners and farmers depend on it,” Seltzer said.

“We are the only business that sells high-quality yard waste for soil-building organic composition. Some people say it’s best stuff,” she said.

According to Seltzer, 10 tons of a yard waste going to a landfill create one job, but 10 tons going to compost create four jobs.

“If we let the yard waste to go to landfills, we will lose jobs. So that will be absolutely crazy if the government chooses to put the waste into landfills,” Seltzer said.

The legislation is pending in the House Committee on Energy and Technology.

4 thoughts on “Proposal would allow some Michigan waste dumping

  1. An interesting topic. I feel like when I put shtmeoing in the compost pile I’m leaving it for nature to take care of with possibly some slight management assistance like turning the pile and balancing wet/dry ingredients. Other than that I leave it to the microbes, bacteria, fungi, worms, bugs, etc to turn it into dirt. We hesitate to toss any biodegradable materials. Wood is burned or chipped, paper/cardboard is shredded and used as bedding for the rabbits or laid flat in the garden paths to stamp out weeds. All left over food stuffs, even dairy, meat, oils etc are put into compost spots. Anything that can be fed to chickens, goats, rabbits or pigs is and anything left is composted. We also compost leftovers from processing animals and if we have deadstock. Everything we can return to the ground is. Heavier compost loads are left longer and ones that have mostly green/brown matter are used up faster. We have piles that are designated to never receive meat/dairy/oil products and ones that it’s ok to have that kind of stuff as an ingredient. Anything recyclable gets recycled and taken to the drop off spot when we have a good load. We’ve thought about holding back all metals but right now lack the storage space to accumulate them. We try to limit our actual trash to as little as possible but we try also realize that this isn’t always possible and not to beat our selves up too much when it is just time to throw shtmeoing away. Fabric/material/etc is shtmeoing we’ve been having trouble finding a good way to return to the earth/recycle. Specifically things that are completely infested with pet hair. We use couch blankets to keep the dogs off the furniture and there is only so long these will stay fresh before the 10th washing just doesn’t get out the dog smell. I try to then recycle them as dog beds on the porch but eventually they are just gross and or falling apart and need to go. I can compost smaller bits or shredded pieces to some extent and we use them similarly to the cardboard to block out weeds. Any other ideas?

  2. Douglas disputes the BIG LIE as told by the Repug politicians. He also shines a white hot light on the Repug agenda which is to fatten the bottom line of corporate AmeriKa. To hell with the small businessman the Repugs say, we get more largess from big business. That’s what it is all about folks.

  3. Douglas A. DeVoid says:
    March 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Operator of compost companies and public agencies in Michigan which I am neither of but wanted to disclose that I am a Solid Waste Hauler. My company has spent allot of money making changes to how we do business regarding the 3r’s. Now that I have found more compliance from my customers and a dependable compost vendor Phoenix Resources Inc in Caledonia MI. it works fine. My issue is that I have spent allot of money, and family time away do to recycling and now someone wants to change the law? Rick Menken General Manager of Spurt a commercial compost processing facility and wood waste recycler implies that “waste haulers are among the primary advocates for the new law” is unacceptable verbiage. Waste haulers are presently enduring an amendment that could hurt our very jobs. Waste haulers have been promoting the ongoing trend to recycle by providing recycling for years and have not been recognized for there effort. Domestic Clean Up Service, Waste Management, Republics, Duncan Disposal, EverKept and the list is as large as 40+ more waste haulers in Kent County that contribute to the cause of recycling. The State of Michigan and Kent County doesn’t need to pass governing controls on how to be more environmental guided or not to be. I believe this same thing about the composting industry. Composting is a GREAT thing! Either this state wants to promote environmentalism or they don’t. There are other motives as to why this bill has come into being and it is not due to West Michigan Waste Haulers. Lets stop focusing on being contentious about our own businesses success and fight legislation from telling us what we should be doing and continue the plight that composting companies and Solid Waste Haulers are already in joint session about, a more productive and safer environment! We need to promote energy efficiency, and invest in a clean energy future. Energy problem solving requires sustainable recovery without effecting water and air pollution! Congratulations to everyone who has a had a hand in Environmental Education especially the Sierra Club.

    Please visit http://www.domesticcleanup.net/category/enviromental/ for more about environmental news and updates.

    Lets do this together!
    Domestic Clean Up Service

  4. Perhaps they are jumping on the political bandwagon that seems engaged in ‘turn the clocks back’ policy-making everywhere. They should LISTEN, and THINK. Jobs will be lost, people say. The claims about alternative energy creation are false, people say. Do not choose to undo a good thing that works. Whoever was set to PROFIT from this action, it does not appear to be the planet nor the 99 percent. I’m with them.

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