On this weeks episode of A Watershed Moment we hear from Nick Occhipinti, Policy Director for West Michigan Environmental Action Council as he explains the dangers of reversing the ban on the yard waste co-mingling law in Michigan.
A law may soon be passed that allows the co-mingling of yard waste with trash in landfills. Advocates for the law argue that the excess methane produced by organic materials in landfills can be collected and used as a source of energy. But as Occhipinti points out, “Landfills weren’t really designed to be optimal energy production units.”
Since 1994 it has been illegal to mix organic yard waste with trash in landfills. One of the major reasons why the law was introduced in the first place, was to protect groundwater and the environment from leachate seeping out of landfills. Mixing organic waste with trash produces methane and other toxins that are bad for the environment and bad for us. The law diverts organic waste away from landfills and into a system that will make more use out of it, namely the composting industry.
“The composting industry creates four jobs for every 10,000 tons per year of compostable material, compared to one job for landfilling or incinerating the same material,” said Occhipinti. WMEAC has spoken to composting companies in Grand Rapids, and they too are opposed to the law. The law would devastate the growing and burgeoning composting businesses that survive off of disposed yard waste.
Is collecting methane for energy worth the environmental and social issues that will likely rise by passing this law? “We’ve seen numbers north of 25 percent of [methane] escapes [landfills] and can’t even be captured [to be used for energy],” said Occhipinti. “By burning this material, you’re really wasting the energy and the value of that material. The optimal use in this situation is composted, nutrient rich soils.”
The legislation passed the Michigan House, and is now awaiting decision at the Michigan Senate. WMEAC hopes that the legislatures will recognize that this is bad public policy and will refrain from passing it. To help stop the bill, contact your senator and the governor and visit WMEAC’s web page dedicated to putting a stop to this law.
“[The co-mingling] ban was really significant in creating Michigan jobs in the composting industry, it really optimized the end use of this material stream. We don’t want to take a step back and go back to wasting energy, wasting value from that compost, and hurting Michigan jobs,” said Occhipinti.
Listen to this episode of A Watershed Moment online.
“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life. Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.