Two-thirds of Ontario trash will still head to Michigan

Two-thirds of the trash transported from Ontario to Michigan landfills will continue to flow across the border despite an agreement to halt exports of residential waste to the state.

Two-thirds of the Ontario trash being sent to Michiganlandfillswill continue to flow across the border despite an agreement to halt exports of residential waste to the state.

The two million tonnes of Ontario's commercial and industrial waste dumped in Michigan landfills every year are exempt from the agreement because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten said.

Shesaid trash is seen as a "tradable commodity" just like cars and other products, and, as such,U.S. politicians cannot stop it from crossing the border.

Last week, Broten and two U.S. senators announced an agreement to phase out the Greater Toronto Area's exports of residential garbage to Michigan landfills by 2010. Hundreds of truckloads of trash are transported daily across the border.

City caused political storm, companies say

Some private garbage companies blame the City of Torontofor sparkingthe political firestorm that led totheagreement to shut out exports of trash to Michigan.

"It never became a political hotspot until the City of Toronto actually started sending them municipal waste," said Carl Lorusso, vice-president of Ontario industrial waste management company Wasteco.

Ontario companies have quietly been sending millions of tonnes of industrial and commercial trash annually to Michigan landfills for years without complaints, he said.

But Michigan residents didn't like the idea of becoming a dumping ground for Toronto's waste, said Rob Cooke, president of the Ontario Waste Management Association, a group representing about 300 companies across the province.

Trash exports 'un-neighbourly'

"It's not a question of the waste is different, smells more or it's more difficult to manage it,"Cooke said. "It was just simply viewed in Michigan as something that was un-neighbourly to do and I don't think that same connotation in Michigan was applied to the commercial and industrial waste."

Cooke expects that as trash talk falls off the political radar, the flow of industrial waste will continue for years.

But he warned that Ontario should prepare for the possibility of increased garbage restrictions if Michigan politicians decide to turn up the political heat.

He urged the province to begin taking steps to manage all of its waste at home.

Meanwhile, Broten said she's trying to persuade companies to try to recycle more, soless of their packaging ends up in the trash.