Poor Economy = Less Trash?

By: Jason Colthorp Email
By: Jason Colthorp Email

How's this for an economic indicator? Garbage.

Landfill operators from the four corners of the country are taking in less trash as the economy falters.

If you have less disposable income it stands to reason you have less to dispose of. And that's certainly the case in Michigan.

The amount of solid waste from Michiganders has gone down each of the last five years, and that jives with how the state economy has been performing.

While that's good for the environment and landfill space, it takes money away from the folks who rely on trash for a living-- places like Granger in Lansing for example. However, Granger tells us while consumer trash is down, its overall business has been consistent for the past few years.

Here's a breakdown of the amount of trash from just state residents sent to Michigan landfills over the last three years.
From 2005 to 2007, the amount has fallen from more than 45 million cubic yards to just more than 41 million. That's a 9.5 percent drop.

The question we posed to the Department of Environmental Quality was: Can this trend continue?

"Time will tell if this decrease continues in future years," said Bob McCann, spokesman for the D.E.Q. "But certainly we need to do a couple things to make sure it keeps decreasing."

The most pressing according to McCann, is to do a better job of recycling. That includes improving recycling programs and making them available to residents statewide. The other need is watching how much trash comes across the border.

"(We need to) be vigilant to curb our imported waste," McCann continued. "Trash that is generated in other states and even other countries."

The numbers show that is happening.
Again, from 2005-2007, the total amount of solid waste, which includes trash from Canada and other states, has dropped.
But in 2006, out-of-state and Canadian trash made up nearly 31 percent of Michigan's total number. That was an all-time high.

In 2007, Michigan took in trash from 14 other states-- the most coming from Indiana.

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