Public Comment Sought on Draft Changes to Solid Waste Laws

Changes to current solid waste laws have been proposed by a 13-member panel. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is asking for public comment on these changes by Aug. 1, 2016.

Every day in almost every Michigan community, it is garbage day for many households. Every week, Michigan residents put their trash and possibly yard waste and recyclables at the curb for pickup. Collectively, all of these items – trash, yard waste and recyclables - are called solid waste. Have you ever thought about how your waste is handled? Who and how it’s regulated to insure safe handling and disposal?

Each state regulates its waste. In Michigan, solid waste is regulated under Part 115, Solid Waste Management of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994 PA 451. This law has been amended in the past, however, new proposals developed by the Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel (SWSAP) have been recommended to promote new solid waste and sustainability goals, such as the Governor’s goal of doubling the amount recycled by 2016.

The SWSAP, a 13-member panel made up of representatives from businesses, environmental groups, academia, local governments and solid waste processors, have been charged with completing a comprehensive review Part 115 of PA 451. The panel has completed their review and has made proposed recommendations in ten areas of the solid waste management section of the law.

While the public comment hearing has passed, Michigan residents are still encouraged to make comments on the proposed recommendations via email or mail by Aug. 1, 2016. Comments should be emailed to Veronica Seymour at or sent to Office of Waste Management and Radiological Protection, Solid Waste Section, P.O. Box 30241, Lansing, MI 48909-7741.

To see the entire list of proposed changes, go to SWSAP Proposals . This is a summary of the ten areas with draft changes:

  • Materials Management Planning - (previously called Solid Waste Management Planning). They are recommending a number of changes using a new focus on materials management rather than waste management.
  • Authorizations - Current provisions include authorizations for construction permits and operating licenses for a number of activities around solid waste management. The proposed amendments would promote recycling and waste utilization, clarify and improve requirements and eliminate unnecessary regulations.
  • Composting - While Michigan bans yard waste from landfills, there is minimal oversight of compost facilities causing problems that prevent siting of new operations. Draft recommendations would increase DEQ’s oversight of compost facilities through permitting, inspections and improved training requirements for operators. It also addresses acceptance of yard waste at farms.
  • Financial Assurance - Licensed solid waste operators provide funds to ensure that the DEQ and taxpayers are not left to pay for cleanup, closure or post closure monitoring of a landfill. Currently this financial assurance amount is not enough to cover these costs if the operator goes out of business. The recommendations propose changes in calculating the amounts to better reflect actual cost estimates and to include compost facilities in these financial assurance requirements.
  • Post closure - Owners and operators are required to maintain their closed landfills for at least 30 years. Changes address this length of time by giving the DEQ the ability to increase or decrease the length of post closure maintenance based on objective criteria. DEQ also will be required to keep an on-line registry of all closed landfills.
  • Electric Utility Coal Combustion Residuals - The recent updates in EPA regulations for storage and disposal of coal ash overlap many of existing provisions in Part 115. The panel’s recommendation is to amend Part 115 to be consistent with the federal limitations.
  • Technology Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials - A 2014-2015 white paper on the disposal of TENORM made recommendations on the disposal of these materials. The SWSAP suggests that some of the white paper recommendations be included into Part 115.
  • Funding - The panel recommends that funding be provided to the DEQ and local governments to implement the recommended Materials Management Planning process and other oversight provisions and to support education and outreach.
  • Compliance Enforcement - Provisions in this section should be amended to promote recycling and waste utilization, clarify and improve requirements and eliminate unnecessary regulations by giving DEQ the right to prioritize its routine inspections based on risk and past history, conduct activities to prevent an imminent threat to the public or the environment and obtain an inspection warrant for a site that refuses access.
  • Solid Waste Policy - The last update to the policy was in 2007. The recommendations include that every five years the Michigan Solid Waste Policy be reviewed and updated as needed and that innovative practices and policies by local communities that support the state’s solid waste policy should be in Part 115.

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