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Don’t Trash Michigan: Empower Communities


Michigan's landfills are filling up with out-of-state trash

Don't Trash MIThe Don’t Trash Michigan campaign aims to curb out-of-state trash and empower local communities to take measures toward a cleaner, greener Michigan. Gaining steam from Governor Jennifer Granholm’s State of the State message vowing that Michigan “will no longer be America’s dumping ground,” Don’t Trash Michigan will confront Michigan’s trash problem head-on.

Currently, about 20% of all trash dumped in Michigan’s landfills is generated outside the state, including waste that fails to meet Michigan standards. The Ecology Center together with nearly two dozen Michigan environmental, community, and religious organizations will mobilize public support for proposals that include ending subsidies and tightening standards for landfills, boosting recycling and expanding Michigan’s bottle bill.

Stinkin’ Up the Place!

Report From Carleton Farms

Download the MDEQ administrative order on Carleton Farms. (June 2006; PDF file – size: 1.1 mb)

The Carleton Farms Landfill stinks! Does Carleton Farms stink because it takes in so much out-of-state trash and makes huge amounts of money for its owner, Republic Services, at the risk of jeopardizing the health and well being of the surrounding southeastern Michigan community? The odors at least are primarily due to sewage sludge (poop – to be polite). In fiscal year 2005, Carleton Farms buried about 170,000 tons of the stuff.

trash mountainIt gets worse. In order to bury it, the landfill digs a deep trench into the already buried and rotting garbage, pours the sewage sludge in and covers it over again with the dug-up garbage. Digging up the rotting garbage alone stinks horribly. Adding the sewage sludge also accelerates the rotting of the garbage in the landfill and creates more landfill gas. Since Carleton Farms is unable to keep up with collecting the landfill gases, they escape into the air and add to the odors that lead to complaints miles from the landfill. The primary component of landfill gas is methane, which is at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. Landfills are the largest source of methane resulting from human activity.

The good news is that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is finally taking action. On June 9, 2006 they signed an administrative order that will temporarily force Carleton Farms to stop taking sewage sludge beginning Aug. 1, 2006. However, the landfill will be able to submit a plan in Nov. for resuming sewage sludge operations.

Fortunately, the administrative order also creates a mechanism to automatically curtail future sewage sludge shipments based on community complaints. Some residents have noted that odors actually seem worse in the winter rather than in the summer. In the summer, Canadian and other sources use sewage sludge as a fertilizer for crop fields. During winter months, the ground is frozen and land application is prohibited so more sewage sludge is buried at the landfill.

Photo: © George Waldman

To get involved or to learn more about Don’t Trash Michigan, visit the Don’t Trash Michigan Web site.

For more information contact:
Brad van Guilder, Ecology Center, (734) 663-2400 ext. 114