Issues: Banning Canadian Trash
Every day, hundreds of garbage trucks from Canada cross the U.S. border, heading for destinations in Michigan. All told, trash from Canada makes up nearly 20 percent of the total waste disposed in Michigan every year.
In fact, at the current rate, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality estimates that Michigan is losing one year of landfill capacity for every 4-5 years of Canadian waste disposal — not to mention the additional pollution and potential groundwater contamination that comes with this excess Canadian waste.
Furthermore, since the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has no effective way to screen or inspect the trash trucks as they cross the border, the trucks also pose a security risk. This risk was confirmed by a 2006 Department of Homeland Security study — made at the request of Senator Levin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Congressman John Dingell — that found that less than two-tenths of one percent of trash trucks are selected for physical inspections, and that the alternate methods of inspection are not effective tools to protect our nation. Additionally, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on which Senator Levin is the senior Democrat, completed a three-year bipartisan investigation in 2006 that found that Canadian trash poses a security threat and recommended that the trash be banned from entering the country.
This open flow of trash cannot continue. That’s why Carl Levin led Senate passage of an amendment in both 2004 and 2005 that would have banned the importation of trash unless the Department of Homeland Security can prove that they adequately inspect these shipments. The legislation simply argued that trash trucks should be held to the same security standard as other commercial trucks crossing our borders, and that we have a responsibility to keep them out of the United States until that can be achieved.
Unfortunately, however, the provision was removed from the Homeland Security spending bill during the conference committee between the Senate and House of Representatives. Carl Levin introduced legislation in 2005 that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to rigorously enforce the United States’ agreement with Canada dealing with solid waste imports. This legislation would ensure that concerns from state and local officials are addressed, while stiffening penalties for companies that break the rules.
Senator Levin is concerned that, for every trash truck caught carrying contraband into Michigan, many more get through undetected with drugs or other illegal material, and this weak link in our nation’s security could be used by terrorists to transport biological or chemical weapons into our country. He will continue fighting to keep Canadian trash out of Michigan landfills and to keep our borders secure.