LANSING, MI — Michigan lawmakers have sent long-awaited legislation to Governor Gretchen Whitmer that would revise the state’s solid waste laws to promote recycling.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Michigan Senate passed an 8-bill package that has been stalled since the start of 2021, clearing the way for the House to approve last-minute changes early Thursday in the final hours of the session. lame duck of 2022.
The main bill, HB 4454, passed 22-10 in the Senate and the House voted 74-23 to approve.
The legislation would modernize waste management in Michigan and increase recycling and composting by revising regulations in the Solid Waste Act, known as Part 115 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. .
The changes would divert more recyclable materials from landfills and develop breakthroughs in the growing circular economy of recyclables and compostable materials.
Among other reforms, the bills would help Michigan counties update solid waste management plans by encouraging regional collaboration when developing landfills, recycling and composting facilities. Curbside service in larger communities and convenient drop-off sites for counties would become benchmark standards in a policy update that supporters say is needed to move the state toward a circular economy. .
Michigan’s dismal recycling rate of 19% is below the national average of 34%. The bills make it a state goal to reach 30% by 2029 and 45% thereafter.
“Counties will soon be funded and incentivized to plan the infrastructure, programs and services needed to manage waste more productively through reduction, recycling, composting, and more,” said Kerrin O’Brien, director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.
The bipartisan bill faced opposition from some Democrats upon final passage due to the inclusion of language that would allow manufacturers to use certain controversial chemical and heating methods to break down plastics.
Other last-minute changes demanded by the waste disposal industry have reduced local government involvement in the location and operation of landfills.
Environmental groups like the Michigan Sierra Club have opposed the changes as undermining the intent of the legislation and are pushing for Whitmer to veto the bills.
The governor’s spokesman, Bobby Leddy, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on whether she was receptive to the bills passing.
The legislation is rooted in regulatory review efforts launched under former Gov. Rick Snyder and was championed by the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, State Rep. Gary Howell, R-Lapeer, whose term ends this month.
The fate of the bills was uncertain for much of the past two years after they passed the House in April 2021 and then sat on the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.
The committee was chaired by Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who received $30,000 in contributions from business owners in the southwest Michigan landfill and waste industry as bills progressed in the committee’s markup in the House.
The bills were returned from Nesbitt’s committee to the Senate floor on Wednesday, never having received a hearing in the 20 months they sat there.
Nesbitt, who will be Senate Minority Leader when Democrats take control of the Legislative Assembly in January, pushed for separate legislation this spring that would allow some “advanced” methods of remaking plastic.
Methods such as pyrolysis and gasification have been pushed nationally by industry groups like the American Chemistry Council and its state counterparts, but opposed by environmental groups over fears that such facilities will produce environmental pollution. water and are financially unfeasible.
Opponents say the process is tantamount to incineration.
In remarks on the floor Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said recycling legislation has been twisted by last-minute amendments into “burning hot trash.”
“What we’re talking about is redefining hot waste burning as ‘chemical recycling’ as part of a greenwashing campaign,” Irwin said. “Think of the people downwind of that burning garbage. What are they going to have to breathe?
Michigan Sierra Club Legislative Director Christy McGillivray said they “will be very tough on this issue first thing in 2023.”
“At the end of the day, they are burning plastic and encouraging a huge increase in the production of products that we should be banning, not exempting them from pollution controls,” she said.
Recycling advocates don’t particularly like the process of chemical recycling, but said they don’t want the debate around it to derail years of efforts to overhaul state policy.
O’Brien said the legislation assigns the task of regulating such facilities through pollution emissions and discharge permits to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), which supported the legislation.
“We don’t want mysterious, unproven black box technology in Michigan,” O’Brien said. “We don’t know what that does exactly, but we do know that it doesn’t change the way things are regulated at the moment.”
The Michigan Chemistry Council says the legislation clarifies that recycling facilities using source-separated materials are manufacturing operations, not solid waste facilities.
“The replacement bills incorporate constructive feedback from EGLE and other parties and reflect years of open discussion around these issues, despite last-minute opposition from some outside groups,” the MCC director said. , John Dulmes.
According to the Michigan Recycling Coalition, approximately $600 million worth of recyclable materials are lost to Michigan landfills each year.
A 2019 state report prepared by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) said Michigan would benefit from approximately 138,000 jobs, $9 billion in labor income and $33 billion in economic output if its rate of recycling increased to 45%.
Other changes to legislation include stricter groundwater monitoring requirements for landfills and coal ash tanks, increased financial security costs on landfills, and longer “post-closure” periods. on landfills during which pollution monitoring is required.
The state would also be able to expand education and awareness efforts around recycling through certain grant programs.
Composting facilities would also be subject to new labeling and testing requirements, and ‘low risk’ industrial waste could be mixed with compost under certain conditions.
“This is a huge step forward for recycling and composting,” said Andi Tolzdorf, director of the Emmet County Department of Public Works. “I look forward to prioritizing landfill diversion and sustainable materials management in Michigan.”
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