Bill would send yard waste to dumps, 'guarantee bankruptcy' for composters

By James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council

Bills being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives Thursday would drive the state’s composting operations out of business.

HB 4265 and HB 4266, sponsored by state representatives Paul Opsommer (R-Dewitt) and Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) would overturn the 17-year-old ban on dumping yard waste in landfills. The ban limits the number of new landfills sited in Michigan communities, and such limits spurred a growing industry that creates valuable compost for Michigan farms, gardens and homes.

A bi-partisan group of legislators is trying to stop the measure from going forward.

Michigan actively recruited small businesses to turn the yard waste into a value added product for Michigan farms, landscapers and gardens.  These family-owned businesses have placed their life savings on the line. Many are now running profitable operations, hiring new employees and generating income for their communities.

The House legislation would cripple those businesses, bankrupt families and eliminate nutrient-rich compost that adds value to the state’s farms, gardens and landscapes. Owners of numerous composting operations testified before the House Energy and Technology Committee that enactment of the bills will bankrupt their businesses.

“It’s guaranteed bankruptcy. There’s no gray area. If this legislation passes, job losses will be immediate,” said Tom Turner, owner of Spurt Industries, a Zeeland-based composter with five locations in Michigan. “The legislature’s willingness to drive small businesses into bankruptcy will have a chilling effect on other businesses coming to Michigan.”

Proponents of the bill argue the yard waste in landfills allows them to increase their production of landfill gas by about 10 percent. Landfill gas only accounts for about 0.75 percent of the electricity produced in Michigan.  Yard waste in landfills increases the release of greenhouse gases and electricity from landfills costs ratepayers twice as much as other electricity.

The Michigan Environmental Council’s position is: “More landfills, more layoff notices and more greenhouse gases make these bills bad policy for the State of Michigan. Instead Michigan should be exploring policies that would make us a clean energy leader.”