garbage

Canada is dumping its garbage in Michigan. We took a look at why it's so cheap to haul trash over the border and the political reasons making it hard to stop.

And, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. Did you know Michigan once had more than 100 drive-ins? Today just a hand full are still in operation.

Also, Amtrak is making some improvements. We spoke with Tim Hoeffner of the Michigan Department of Transportation about what Michigan train passengers can expect.

And, Michael Stern from Roadfood.com, and frequent guest on The Splendid Table, stopped by to tell us about his recent trip to the Upper Peninsula and the culinary marvels he found up there.

But, first on the show, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress are still at odds over federal spending on this, the 14th day of the partial government shutdown. In weekend discussions, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell could not reach a deal to raise the nation's borrowing authority. Stocks are lower as the nation moves to a potentially disastrous default on its debt. Democratic Congressman Sander Levin joined us today to talk about the impasse.

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Michigan is known for its lakes, sparkling rivers, forests, and campgrounds. And for being a great, cheap place to dump your trash, at least if you’re a Canadian waste hauler.

Consider this: It costs $64 to dump a ton of trash in a landfill in Windsor, over $100 in Ottawa, and on the U.S. side of the border, you’d pay $12.99 a ton in Wisconsin.

Here in Michigan? It costs 21 cents per ton.

And that Canadian trucker hauling the trash pays just five dollars to cross at the border.

It’s a small wonder that Michigan has become a mighty attractive destination for Canadian businesses looking to get rid of their trash.

Just why is our state so ‘cheap and easy’ when it comes to Canadian trash?

Barry Rabe teaches public and environmental policy at the University of Michigan at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

From the "Meet the Dumpers" website. This week's featured company.
meetthedumpers.com

Illegal dumping is a massive problem in Detroit. Just drive around for several minutes and you’re likely to see household and industrial trash illegally dumped on street corners and along service roads.

A group in the northwest Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor hopes to curtail illegal dumping by publicly shaming companies and individuals caught dumping.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

When you’re driving around southeast Michigan, you might happen to see three women on the side of the road. They’re all moms, but their kids are grown up. They work part time. They fill their free time by picking up trash... for fun.

"This is a beautiful area, and yet we have piles of garbage there."

Melinda Fons is with her friends Moy Garretson and Karen Rooke in suburban Detroit.

Karen: "Wagons roll!"

They get plastic grabbers and garbage bags out of the trunk. And they head into a little wooded patch next to a busy two-lane road.

Karen Rooke starts on the edges.

"I’ve got some cups, a newspaper and a plastic bag. And a credit card... ooh this is good. I’ll take that to the police."

The three women crawl under trees and into bushes to get the trash. There’s a pile of Styrofoam peanuts, empty rum bottles, a tire... and two more credit cards.

Karen: "I picked up 20 vodka bottles once and Listerine. I think it’s the kids that go drink down there. It’s just a quiet road, and have the Listerine so their parents – they think - don’t know. We were young once too!"

(Flickr mcav0y)

Last year state officials approved a ban on burning trash starting April 1st, 2011.  But with the date drawing near, it appears backyard burning appears safe, at least legally, for now.    

Nio_nl / Flickr

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow hailed what she called a "major milestone" in the fight to stop Canadian trash shipments to Michigan. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek was at a press conference that the Senator held yesterday in Detroit. Cwiek sent this report:

Michigan charges only 21 cents a ton to dump trash in landfills. That's far less than other Great Lakes states.

As a result, Ontario, as well as some U.S. states, export some of their trash to Michigan. But, Stabenow says as of January first, Ontario cities are no longer shipping their municipal waste. She credits a voluntary agreement she and Senator Carl Levin reached with Ontario officials in 2006.

But, Stabenow says that's not the end of the story because the agreement doesn't apply to non-municipal trash.

Commercial and industrial waste accounts for about 60-percent of the trash that's shipped from Canada to Michigan.