Ann Arbor: Keep Grass Out of Landfills

At its March 19, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution supporting the continued maintenance and enforcement of a 1990 statewide ban on adding yard waste, like lawn grass clippings, to landfills.

The city council’s action came in opposition to two bills, HB 4265 and HB 4266, passed by the Michigan state house of representatives on March 15 on a 67-40 and 66-41 vote, respectively. Together the bills would allow for yard waste to be added to landfills under certain conditions – when the landfill has a gas collection system and that gas is used in the production of electricity. Ann Arbor’s now-closed landfill uses such a gas collection system, which has produced around 3,000 MWh of electricity a year. [.pdf of analysis of HB 4265 and HB 4266]

The council’s resolution was accompanied by a staff memo contending that methane gas-fueled generation is a less effective way to manage wastes, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s municipal solid waste assessment: “Combustion or gasification with energy recovery, or waste-to-energy (WTE), is the environmentally preferable route for mixed solid wastes that are neither recyclable nor compostable.” The council’s resolution cites in situ composting as a more beneficial policy than adding yard waste to landfills in order to create and collect methane gas for electricity generation.

The council’s resolution also criticizes the pending state legislation for creating an “unfair competitive environment for yardwaste resources, impacting current tipfees and pricepoints.” Ann Arbor’s current costs for disposing of waste in a landfill $24.83/ton, while its composting costs are $19/ton.

The city council’s resolution was passed on a unanimous vote of the eight councilmembers present.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]