Up and Down

Two of the top five solid waste importing states are heading in opposite directions. According to statistics released by each state's environmental department, the volume of waste imported into Virginia continues to increase, while Wisconsin's waste imports are in a steady decline.

A Congressional Research Service report released in June ranks states based on their levels of imported waste. Virginia ranked behind only Pennsylvania for second on the list, while Wisconsin finished fourth. The rankings used statistics from 2005 because 2006 data from every state was not available at the time. The top-five is rounded out by Michigan in third place and Oregon in fifth.

Meanwhile, Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released annual reports compiled using 2006 statistics. The Virginia DEQ reports that the total waste received increased nearly 3.5 percent to 7.3 million tons, up from 7 million tons in 2005. Since 2000, annual imports have increased by approximately 2.7 million tons, and have increased each year except 2005.

The Wisconsin DNR reports that 1.9 million tons were imported in 2006, which continues the decline from 2.1 million tons in 2005 and 2.2 million tons in 2004.

The Virginia DEQ has forecasted 17.3 years of remaining capacity for municipal solid waste in the state's landfills at the current disposal rate. Construction and demolition debris landfills have a reported 8.9 years of capacity remaining. As for Wisconsin, statistics from the DNR show that there are 12.4 years of capacity remaining for municipal and industrial waste at the current disposal rate.

Virginia received the bulk of its 2006 imported waste from Maryland, which accounted for roughly 43 percent, according to the DEQ annual report. Wisconsin's biggest contributor last year was Illinois, accounting for nearly 64 percent of the state's imported waste, according to the DNR report.

Dennis Mack, recycling and solid waste section chief for the Wisconsin DNR, notes that the downward trend isn't the result of a deliberate policy change. Instead, he says it is more closely tied to general economic conditions, fuel prices and internal decisions by waste companies on how they will utilize their regional airspace.