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Michigan's Solid Waste Laws, Regulations, and Issues Related to Importing of Solid Waste from Canada


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has implemented a comprehensive solid waste strategy designed to

  • improve Michigan's recycling programs

  • ensure that landfill capacities remain adequate, and

  • protect the environment

This page summarizes the Michigan laws and regulations that underlie the strategy.

The primary law:  Part 115 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act

The primary Michigan law governing solid waste management is the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451 Part 115 (Part 115).  This comprehensive law covers various aspects of solid waste management including:

  • definitions

  • municipal solid waste management program certification procedures

  • landfill construction permits and licensing

  • inspections

  • planning agency procedures

Part 115 was amended in March 2004 by several key pieces of legislation:

  • Act 34 prohibits certain wastes from disposal in Michigan landfills, including:

    • yard clippings

    • used beverage containers

    • liquid waste

    • medical waste

    • used oil

    (see complete list of restricted materials with definitions and appropriate disposal options for these wastes).

  • Act 37 requires DEQ to notify each state, the country of Canada, and each province in Canada that sends wastes to Michigan landfills that it will not accept for disposal in landfills the prohibited items found in Act 34.  Further, Act 37 requires DEQ to compile a list of jurisdictions that have comparable solid waste programs that restrict prohibited items, and to distribute this list to state landfills.
  • Act 40 helps ensure compliance with waste prohibition rules by requiring that one of three criteria be met before a landfill accepts waste for disposal that was generated outside of Michigan:
    • The solid waste is composed of a uniform type of item, material, or substance, other than municipal solid waste incinerator ash, that meets the requirements for disposal in a landfill, or
    • The solid waste was received through a material recovery facility, a transfer station, or other facility (e.g., the landfill itself) that has documented that it has removed prohibited items from the solid waste being delivered to the landfill, or
    • The country, state, province, or local jurisdiction in which the solid waste was generated has a documented and enforceable solid waste program that prevents the disposal of prohibited wastes identified in Act 34.

Additional acts pertaining to the solid waste management issues covered by WasteWatcher or amendments to Part 115 were also passed in March 2004 (see full list of acts and amendments).

New Responsibilities for Landfills

The 2004 amendments to Part 115 prohibit the disposal of a variety of wastes in municipal solid waste landfills in Michigan.   Part 115 also requires that:

  • owners and operators of landfills implement a program for detecting and preventing the disposal of prohibited wastes, and that
  • landfill engineering and operation plans describe the procedures and processes used for such activities.

DEQ has published a list of program components that it feels are minimal requirements (see DEQ Feb. 8, 2005 memo, attachment 1).  These components should be incorporated into the landfill engineering and operational plans as originally required by Part 115 (see R 299.4911 of Solid Waste Management Act Administrative Rules).  The list includes:

  • Training of gate and operations staff to recognize and detect prohibited waste and verify the accuracy of information provided by the hauler,
  • Procedures for checking paperwork of out-of state municipal waste loads for compliance with Part 115 (i.e., Prohibited Waste Removal Record form, Solid Waste Manifest form, or Uniform Solid Waste Record form),
  • Cameras or mirrors for overhead inspection,
  • Procedures for random inspections of incoming loads,
  • Procedures for advanced characterization of incoming industrial or remediation wastes,
  • Prohibited waste signs posted in public unloading areas,
  • Supervision of public unloading areas,
  • Separate containers in public unloading areas for holding prohibited items,
  • Procedures for rejecting wastes, and
  • Recordkeeping procedures.

 If landfills are actively removing prohibited waste before disposal, they must document this activity on the Prohibited Waste Removal Record form (EQP 5222).  Also, the landfill should update their engineering and operation plan to reflect this activity.

DEQ recommends the following plan updates (see full list in Attachment 2 of Feb. 8, 2005 DEQ memo):

  • Procedures for removing prohibited waste prior to delivery to landfill and before acceptance for disposal,
  • Locations where waste will be screened (cannot be screened at location of disposal – active face) and prohibited wastes stored after removal,
  • Identify personnel and equipment used for screening/removing prohibited waste,
  • Location of alternate disposal for prohibited wastes,
  • Identification of who at the landfill completes documentation of removal and how the documentation is maintained, and
  • Special training requirements.

Inspection and Enforcement Issues

Routine Inspections.  DEQ inspects active landfills at least four times per year.  Inspectors observe waste transport vehicles as they unload, and review the forms or other information that the landfill is required to maintain in order to document compliance.

DEQ/EPA Initiative.  To help ensure that prohibited waste items are not placed in Michigan landfills, DEQ carried out a joint initiative with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5.  The purpose was to monitor the disposal of Canadian, inter-state, and intra-state municipal solid waste in Michigan landfills, checking for compliance with Michigan's environmental laws and regulations and with the Transboundary Agreement between the United States and Canada.  Under this initiative, a Region 5 contractor conducted weekly, unannounced inspections between March 28, 2005 and October 28, 2005 at eight landfills known to receive Canadian and inter-state waste shipments.  The joint project built on an inspection project that was carried out by DEQ in 2003

Based on findings from the inspections, the DEQ and U.S. EPA will provide technical assistance to landfill facilities and state inspectors to improve management of imported waste, and to help develop methods for screening out prohibited materials. The agencies will develop and distribute outreach materials as appropriate, with the goal of raising public awareness of general waste management issues, as well as of issues associated with improper management of prohibited materials in landfills. (More information on the DEQ/EPA initiative.)

U.S. Customs Inspections.  U.S. Customs is primarily concerned with the security of U.S. borders.  However, they also play a role in monitoring the flow of municipal wastes from Canada.

Their inspections of municipal waste vehicles are primarily concerned with hidden narcotics and terrorist weapons.  In one incident, for example, they used a gamma x-ray unit to find 32 garbage bags and 27 hockey bags filled with marijuana (September 2003).  But they will take action in other cases as well.  In 2003 there were 81 penalties issued in Port Huron and 11 penalties issued in Detroit against carriers for transporting medical waste material that was not properly manifested.

All municipal solid waste vehicles, passenger cars, and other cargo trucks pass through radiation portals as they enter the U.S Canada.  These portals are capable of detecting both gamma and neutron radiation sources.  The ports also have gamma x-ray units that Customs officers use to inspect the trucks. In addition, Customs will inspect a representative sample of solid waste vehicles at the landfills.  Customs officers escort the trucks to the landfill and inspect the contents when it's unloaded. (More information on U.S. Customs inspections of solid waste vehicles.)

State Police.  Under the authority of Part 115, the state police (as well as the DEQ) may conduct regular, random inspections of waste being transported for disposal at disposal areas in Michigan.  These inspections may be conducted on highways or at disposal areas.

Local Law Enforcement Agencies.  Local law enforcement agencies are concerned about safety aspects of solid waste vehicles.  According to The Detroit News the Wayne County sheriff's division has written about 1,400 citations for overweight trucks since January 2004 -- netting about $900,000 in fines.  Many of the citations were handed out to truckers hauling Toronto's solid waste to Michigan landfills.  In most states, the maximum gross vehicle weight is 80,000 pounds, but Michigan's is 164,000 pounds, primarily because of a large volume of international commerce. (The Detroit News, June 8, 2005)

Sheriff Warren Evans has assigned a division of six deputies to enforce the weight limits in Wayne County.  He said the goal was to prevent serious traffic accidents and road damage.  Dearborn, Michigan police operate a program called "Operation Roadcheck" that uses unit officers to inspect trucks and other commercial vehicles.  The officers check to see that the vehicles comply with federal regulations governing brakes, suspension components, weight laws, and hazardous cargo.

Related DEQ Reports

Solid Waste Management Reports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004:

Other Solid Waste Documents:

More Resources

Draft Part 115 Rule Interpretation Q&A Document.

List of Prohibited Wastes and Disposal Options for these Materials.

Solid Waste Management Forms



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