trash

When it comes to economic growth and finding an economic partner, it seems Michigan and China have a serious relationship. Last year, Michigan exported more than $3 billion worth of goods and services to China, only behind Canada and Mexico. We took a look at these economic ties and what they mean for the future.

And, we met a 17-year-old who is trying to keep her community clean, one trash bag at a time.

Also, we spoke with Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author of the new book “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy,” about rebuilding Detroit.

First on the show, tomorrow is primary election day. Detroit's primary is getting most of the attention, but there are local elections happening in many areas of the state on Tuesday.

In Flint, voters are choosing among two dozen candidates to fill largely powerless city council seats.

Flint has been under the control of an emergency manager since December of 2011. But while Flint city council members wield little power now, that may soon change.

Flint is taking steps to come out from under state oversight and that could happen late next year, so the Flint city council members elected from the field of Tuesday’s primary candidates may eventually have actual power to shape their city.

Voters are also casting primary ballots in parts of Lansing, Jackson, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

In all, voters in more than 50 Michigan counties will be casting ballots on Tuesday.

In Detroit, the stakes have never been higher because of the bankruptcy.

Detroit Free Press editorial writer Nancy Kaffer joined us today to give us a preview of the election.

http://www.actionfornature.org/

When you're walking in your favorite park, what do you do when you see trash? Plastic bags, empty bottles, and cigarette butts?

Chances are most of us would shake our heads in dismay at the nerve of someone who would deliberately litter like that and keep on walking.

We wanted you to meet an Oakland County teenager who doesn't just keep on walking. She puts on her rubber gloves and picks up other peoples' trash.

17 year old Brianna Moore has just been recognized by a San Francisco group called "Action For Nature." They've given Briana an International Young Eco-Hero Award for her efforts to clean up her community.

Brianna Moore joined us today from her home in Oak Park.

Listen to the full interview above.

Flickr

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.

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, the rise of the pop-up: Why temporary businesses are springing up and finding success.

And, we spoke with Jacob Hirsch, the boy from Bloomfield Hills who won a trip to the White House to have lunch with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Also, Jake Miklojcik joined us to talk about why Detroit casinos are seeing a drop in revenue.

But first we talked about Friday's decision by the Michigan Supreme Court. The court said it would not make an early ruling on the constitutionality of the state's new right-to-work law. Governor Snyder had asked the high court to decide the issue before the case made its way through lower courts.

The law was passed last December during a very controversial lame-duck legislative session. Under the law, workers cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Chris Gautz, the capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, joined us today to help break it down.

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!"

Michael C. Rael / flickr

The state Legislature could enact new restrictions soon on the types of household waste that can be burned in barrels and pits.

Household waste now includes a lot more toxic materials – such as computer parts, rubber, plastic, and treated wood. A rule proposed last year would have banned outdoor burning in communities that don’t have local trash-burning ordinances.

Critics say that goes too far – especially in small towns and rural areas, where people have long burned their trash in burn barrels.

“They have to have the ability to burn their trash and dispose of it properly and that’s what we’ve done for years and years,” said Kenneth Kurtz (R-Coldwater).

The legislation would ban materials including rubber, plastic, and treated wood. Environmental groups don’t think that goes far enough.

“Burning is unnecessary. Burning is a bad idea,” said Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Environmental Council. “We acknowledge that it’s a practice that’s gone on, that’s been very convenient for people for a long time, so we welcome the step in the right direction this legislation is and hope that it can be stronger in the future.”

McDiarmid says improved recycling programs would be a better alternative to burning trash.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing is expanding a  pilot recycling program. The ‘single stream’ recycling program means businesses and individuals don’t  have to separate bottles, newspapers and other recyclables. 

Chad Gamble is Lansing’s Public Works director. He says making recycling easier means more things will be recycled, and the more that's recycled the less the program costs the city.  

“There are several cities statewide that are doing ‘single stream’ collection in varying degrees.  But I think we are truly one of the leaders…branching out into the commercial recycling…the cart (residential) recycling for families and the public recycling.  And so, I’m very excited to pilot these programs." 

Gamble says city leaders are evaluating the ‘single stream’ recycling program and may eventually expand it to the entire city.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user tEdGuY49

Detroit is home to one of the world’s largest incinerators. That facility burns around 800,000 tons of trash every year.

The issue has sparked passionate conflict in Detroit for more than 20 years. And a recent public hearing—on whether to give the incinerator’s new owners tax credits—showed that conflict is just as intense as ever.

(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.