Measuring Michigan

The Michigan department of environmental quality (DEQ) reported in its annual summary that the overall tonnage of solid waste shipped from Canada to the state for disposal increased to 5.7 million tons in 2006 from 5.6 million tons in 2005.

“It's a very big issue for the people of Michigan in terms of how we use our land and whether or not expansions are dictated by imported waste,” says Robert McCann, press secretary for the Michigan DEQ.

In 2006, the total amount of waste disposed of in Michigan landfills was nearly 62 million cubic yards, a decrease of 3 percent from 2005. Canada remains the state's largest source of waste imports and is responsible for nearly 10 million more cubic yards of waste than Indiana, which deposited 2.2 million cubic yards of waste in Michigan's landfills last year.

Talks with Canadian officials have intensified more in the past 10 years as the issue has become increasingly contentious. Imported waste from Canada has increased from 2.6 million cubic yards in 1996 to more than 12 million cubic yards last year.

According to the report, imported solid waste made up 31 percent of all of the waste in Michigan landfills for 2006, up from 29 percent in 2005. The state's landfills have approximately 18 years of capacity remaining, and McCan says the DEQ supports reinstating a moratorium on landfill expansion within the state in order to discourage further waste imports. The previous moratorium expired Jan. 1, 2006.

Despite the Canadian increase, Toronto reportedly decreased the waste it sent to Michigan by 1.4 percent to 818,500 tons in 2006. The reductions were attributed to increased residential diversion and the August 2006 curtailing of biosolids shipments.

Toronto has historically played a major role in Michigan's waste imports, and McCann applauded the decrease. “They understand the need to develop local answers to their problems,” he says.

The entire report can be found at

Origin of Solid Waste in Michigan Landfills
FY 1996 86.5% 6.3% 7.2%
FY 1997 87.2% 5.7% 7.1%
FY 1998 87.7% 5.5% 6.8%
FY 1999 87.7% 4.5% 7.8%
FY 2001 83.5% 7.4% 9.1%
FY 2002 80.0% 9.9% 10.0%
FY 2003 79.8% 11.6% 8.6%
FY 2004 75.0% 15.2% 9.8%
FY 2005 71.5% 18.2% 10.3%
FY 2006 71.0% 18.6% 10.4%
FY 2007 69.2% 19.5% 11.2%