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Stateside: The state of our waste

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Mark Kurlyandchik, author of “Waste Matters,” is tracking his trash.

Kurlyandchik’s recent Hour Magazine article investigated Michigan’s treatment of its waste materials.

Some of his findings were striking.

“The average American produces almost four and a half pounds of trash a day. The U.S. makes up four percent of the world’s population, but we generate 30 percent of the global waste,” he said.

Kurlyandchik noted the country’s culture of consumerism as a reason for this large amount of waste.

He also stressed the importance of seeing a landfill in person.

“One thing I would recommend is to call up your landfill operator and ask for a tour. There’s this great misconception of landfills. I thought it was just this open pit. That’s just not the case... In the state of Michigan we have 49 of these municipal solid waste landfills.”

According to Kurlyandchik, the company Waste Management has been focusing on its recycling efforts.  

“Waste Management is also the largest recycler in the country in addition to being the largest waste management company. They’re also starting to convert some landfill gas into energy.”

Due largely to its low cost of dumping, Michigan receives trash from other Midwestern states.

“Part of that has to do with the low state fees. It costs about 36 cents per ton in Michigan for waste to be dumped in a landfill. By comparison, in Wisconsin it is $13 a ton…” said Kurlyandchik.

Kurlyandchik said the amount of waste imported by Michigan is no longer economically feasible.

“The last comprehensive study of the recycling rate in Michigan was done in 2001. It found that we were at 20 percent, which is below the [national] average of 34 percent...”

-Cameron Stewart, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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