2017-03-30 / Front Page

Mission to grow for Solid Waste Council

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

One of the advertised benefits of recycling is that it will reduce the amount of materials that go into local landfills.

And it has.

Glen’s Landfill is the only landfill still in operation in Leelanau County. It is currently owned and operated by Waste Management, a national company with a big presence in Michigan.

As the volume of materials recycled in Leelanau County has increased in recent years, the amount of materials going into Glen’s Landfill has decreased.

In 2002, for example, the amount of glass, tin, plastic and fiber recycled in Leelanau County amounted to 1,050 tons. By 2015, the amount recycled by the county increased to 1,883 tons.

At Glen’s Landfill, on the other hand, some 468,328 cubic yards of waste were deposited in 2002. By 2015, however, only 79,281 cubic yards of waste were put into our local landfill.

“Obviously, there’s a connection between an increase in the volume of recycling and a decrease in the volume going into landfills,” said Tom Horton, a statewide spokesman for Waste Management, based in Wixom.

“But there are also a lot of other factors at play that influence whether volume increases or decreases in landfills.”

Market forces are at the top of the list of influences, Horton explained.

“The waste stream these days overall is just much lighter than it used to be, but only partly because of recycling,” Horton said. “For example, the plastics used in packaging and in other products are much lighter than they were years ago.”

In addition, the regulatory environment changes over time, so that the incentives for recycling and the legal procedures set up to fund and manage solid waste programs in any given state are evolving.

“In fact, we’re on the verge of seeing some pretty big changes coming down the pike here in Michigan in the very near future,” Horton said.

He said that industry representatives, municipal planners, environmentalists and others have been working on a report with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about recycling and waste management in general that is due to hit the streets by next month.

Horton said that a Solid Waste Sustainability Advisory Panel (SWSAP) has recommended to the governor that new rules be put in place to manage and fund recycling and other solid waste programs statewide.

“I remember working with your own planning director right there in Leelanau County, Trudy Galla, when she came to Lansing to lobby for the per-household fee that made recycling in your county more sustainable,” Horton said.

“Some similar changes are being brought forward to the State Legislature this year by the SWSAP that could expand and improve these programs even further,” Horton said.

Among other things, the panel has recommended that solid waste councils created by Leelanau County and many municipalities should expand their scope.

“Solid waste councils like the one you have in Leelanau County would become a ‘Material Management Committee’ that would oversee local programs not just for recycling, but also looking at broader issues of sustainability, the use of landfills, and many other programs,” Horton said.

Horton said he expected the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to release the SWSAP report “very soon,” and that county officials would need to begin taking a close look at it in the months ahead.

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