Waste disposal has changed significantly during the past 25 years. Yesterday’s small, outdated, poorly engineered municipal garbage dumps have been replaced with large, regional landfill sites employing modern technologies to manage waste while safeguarding the environment.
Stricter environmental regulations are largely responsible for these important industry advancements. In 1979, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted strict landfill standards regulating facility design, construction and operation. Many local landfills found it impossible to comply with these stringent capital intensive requirements and simply closed their doors, forcing the industry to begin transporting waste greater distances to landfills able to comply with the new regulations.
Today, 21st Century technologies like synthetic liners, groundwater and gas monitoring, and leachate and landfill gas collection systems are an everyday part of the processes used to manage and dispose of solid waste. The cost of these systems – as much as $500,000 per acre – has made the capital requirements of opening a new landfill quite substantial. Environmental regulations, coupled with challenging siting requirements and higher costs, have combined to reduce the number of Michigan landfills licensed to accept solid waste that includes garbage to 53 regional facilities. These landfills work to support their operations – and keep costs low for state residents – by broadening their customer bases as much as possible.
In addition to providing safe, affordable solid waste disposal, Michigan’s landfills offer a significant financial boost to local communities and economies through jobs, host fees, property taxes, surcharges and the purchase of goods and services.
Members of Michigan’s waste management industry are always seeking new and innovative operating procedures that improve the delivery of service to Michigan residents and businesses. Scientific and technological advances, along with development of improved business strategies, will enhance future industry performance and its ability to provide new and traditional forms of disposal capacity.