Protect Michigan Composting: Don’t Trash and Burn!


The Michigan House House of Representatives moved closer to passing a a package of bills that would allow the co-mingling of yard clippings with garbage in landfills.

Currently garbage and yard waste are separated to prevent environmental hazards

Currently Michigan residents are required to separate yard waste from trash due to the “Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act” of 1994, among other benefits of the law. Separating yard waste from garbage keeps landfills from producing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The law also ensures a robust composting industry in the state.

Methane is produced when organic waste decompses in the anaerobic environment of a landfill rather than compost piles with sufficient air circulation where very little, if any, methane is produced. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, according to the EPA.

House Bills 4266 and 4265 was passed in the by the House Energy and Technology Committee last tuesday. A similar bill is currently in the State Senate. The proposed bills suggest collecting the excess methane and burning it as an energy source. However, local experts argue that this is not an efficient option, “Burning landfill methane is not an optimal use for methane and comes with major negative environmental consequences” says Nick Occhipinti of West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

According to a report prepared by composting industry experts in response to the corresponding Senate Bill 864,  landfill methane collection efficiency would need to increase to approximately a 95 if the organics management solution were to equal an aerobic decomosition method, such as composting. Collection efficiencies at landfills are currently estimated at 20%.

The US Composting Council does not support the implementation of the bills, emphasizing the benefits of composting, such as its ability to improve soil health and fertility, and its contribution to erosion control and stormwater management.

Compost companies use yard waste to restore nutrients back to the soil

Aside from the environmental debate, the bills could have a negative economic impact, according to its opponents. The separation of yard waste 18 years ago stimulated the creation of small businesses involved in recycling and composting services. One such business, Spurt Industries, is vehemently fighting against the implementation of the bills. Spurt is a West Michigan business dedicated to finding alternative uses for organic waste products, reducing the need for landfill space and preserving and renewing the environment.

“I was always under the impression that our government wanted to help small business expand, the only people that will benefit from this is the waste haulers and big business,” says Rick Menken General Manager of Spurt, “We could lose up to 70% of our incoming raw material. You can’t run a business when you lose that much of your material.”

Currently the law in Michigan does not allow co-mingled trash to be sent to composting sites: Materials mixed with plastics, metals and other non-compostable materials are useless to composters.

Rick Menken believes there will be a trickle-down effect as well. Spurt Industries may likely go out of business, he said, but so would the hundreds of other small business that either depend directly on composting and recycling or depend upon businesses that perform those activities for them.

A study done by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance determined that for every four jobs found in the composting and recycling business, only one job can be found in the landfill and incineration business. Cutting that many jobs will almost certainly have a devastating effect on Michigan’s precarious unemployment rate.

The probable energy potential of yard clippings is only between 0.124% and 0.087% of energy production, according to USEPA/DOE data. Less than 1% of energy  will be produced from co-mingling yard waste with trash and with a severe cost.

According to Occhipinti, the new law, if enacted, should not immediately impact yard waste recycling in the city of Grand Rapids, which manages waste removal for its residents. The City would still have the ability to place restrictions on comingling, as would commercial waste haulers. But as wate haulers are among the primary advocates for the new law, it is unlikely that they would chose to do so, he said.

Take Action against these bills! Ask your Representative to oppose HB 4265 and 4266 and to instead support programs and policies that increase composting and recycling within Michigan.

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5 thoughts on “Protect Michigan Composting: Don’t Trash and Burn!

  1. I just can’t understand Michigan and their agenda on recycling? Sometimes I think that it is all about the money! In 1995 Michigan wanted to recycle yard waste and caused me to have to tell my customers that yard waste was not permitted in the landfills for the purpose of recycling. The problem with this is when it happened I had to convince my customers that this was a great idea but it would cost them more for this to happen. During the transition I found that my customers still would not change their habits and was forced to take hours to sort yard waste from containers at the landfill and reload it and transfer it to Caledonia Michigan to company called Phoenix Resources Inc a composting facility about 25 miles south of Grand Rapids. I was investing 4-6 six hours plus fuel to accomplish this for every mixed load. I have been plagued with the inability to make anyone happy including my self for 15 years. Today they want to enact bills to not recycle yard waste? Could you please enlighten me about what is happening in Michigan and what their motives are? Either this state wants to promote environmentalism or they don’t.

  2. I wanted to add that I am a Solid Waste Hauler. My company has spent allot of money making changes to how we do business regarding the 3r’s. Now that I have found more compliance from my customers and a dependable vendor in Caledonia MI. it works fine. My issue is that I have spent allot of money, and family time away do to recycling and now someone wants to change the law? So to say that “waste haulers are among the primary advocates for the new law” is unacceptable verbiage. Waste haulers are presently enduring an amendment that could hurt our very jobs. Waste haulers have been promoting the ongoing trend to recycle by providing recycling for years and have not been recognized for there effort. Domestic Clean Up Service, Waste Management, Republics, Duncan Disposal, EverKept and the list is as large as 40+ more waste haulers that contribute to the cause of recycling. The State of Michigan and Kent County doesn’t need to pass governing controls on how to be more environmental guided or not to be. I believe this same thing about the composting industry. Composting is a GREAT thing! Either this state wants to promote environmentalism or they don’t. There are other motives as to why this bill has come into being. You be the judge of that! Lets stop legislation from telling us what we should be doing and continue the plight that composting companies and Solid Waste Haulers are already known for… a safer environment! Congratulations to everyone who has a had a hand in Environmental Education especially the Sierria Club.

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