Michigan is known for its many lakes and dense forestry — and to some states and companies, its remarkably cheap landfills. At the moment Michigan’s tipping fee —the cost the state charges to dump trash in Michigan landfills — is only 21 cents per ton, which is remarkably low when compared to its neighbors. The corresponding fee in Wisconsin is $12.99, and just over the Canadian border Windsor charges a whopping $64. Michigan’s low tipping fee is a cause for concern, as it encourages other states and Canada to shunt their trash into Michigan. Since so much of Michigan’s identity as a state is based in its natural beauty and the state is always in need of more money, Governor Snyder and the state legislature should raise the tipping fee in order to preserve the environment. Moreover, they should also take a variety of steps to ensure that as little recyclable material as possible finds its way into landfills.
With the current tipping fee, about 20 percent of the solid waste disposed of in Michigan landfills last year came from out of state. Since it’s so low to begin with, raising the tipping fee would likely increase the amount of revenue the state gets while simultaneously acting as a disincentive for other states (or countries) to cart their trash all the way to Michigan for disposal. This would not only lengthen the life of Michigan’s existing landfills, but could also encourage other state governments — including our own — to consider programs that would reduce the amount of trash produced in the first place and in the future.
One way to do this would be to expand the bottle deposit program. Currently, there are no deposits on disposable water bottles and other beverage containers — such as energy drinks and Arizona iced tea cans — that are as large or larger than the 12oz cans and 20oz bottles that currently have deposits. Seeing as Americans consume about 38 billion disposable water bottles each year and only 38.6 percent of disposable water bottles were recycled in the U.S. in 2011, such a measure is sorely needed. Additionally, the state should encourage cities and local governments to provide recycling receptacles for public use alongside trash receptacles, akin to the ones found on campus in the Diag and elsewhere. Placing recycling cans next to trashcans makes recycling incredibly easy. The state could also consider incentivizing businesses — particularly those that sell canned beverages — to provide recycling containers for their customers’ use.
Allowing trash to be imported into Michigan puts the quality of one of this state’s greatest assets — its environment — at risk. By raising the tipping fee for garbage, offering a deposit for a larger variety of drink containers and making recycling receptacles more commonly available, the state would both make money and lessen the need for more landfills in the long run.