The long and suffocatingly hot summer months can be a slow time for news. But the return of fall has brought with it a couple of high-profile solid-waste news stories.
First, in late September, Toronto announced its intention to purchase an Ontario landfill and thus fulfill its commitment to stop sending its solid waste to Michigan by 2010. According to the city, the landfill has enough capacity to meet Toronto's disposal needs for at least 15 years.
The trash shipments began several years ago and, almost immediately, were wildly unpopular with Michigan residents and politicians, who mounted a seemingly non-stop effort to pass laws that would block the waste from entering the state's borders.
Toronto officials consistently responded to the demonization of their trash — including claims that the shipments represented an opportunity for terrorists to harm the United States — with class and civility, and they have apparently decided that Michigan's agitation, however unfounded, isn't worth the effort. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, they don't want Michigan officials to have their city's trash to kick around anymore.
The whole Toronto-Michigan saga is a good snapshot of the phobia and NIMBY-ism that surrounds the issue of interstate waste shipments. It is also a good reminder that the industry should take every chance it can to aggressively educate the public and politicians about the reality and safety of out-of-state trash disposal. For more on this story, turn to “As the Wheels Turn,” p. 12.
A second bit of big news came tumbling down the pike in September as well, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit's decision in the United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (N.Y.) case. In its decision, the appeals court ruled that the authority's ordinances requiring haulers to take trash to a publicly owned and operated landfill do not violate the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The case marks the first time that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a flow control lawsuit since its historic decision in the C&A Carbone v. Clarkstown case, in which the court struck down a municipal law requiring all waste generated to be processed at a privately owned transfer station.
Flow control has long been a contentious issue between the private and public sectors of the solid waste industry, and Waste Age will thoroughly cover this important development. Our coverage starts with “Its Day in Court” on p. 6.
The author is the editor of Waste Age