Waste Imports

ZERO WASTE is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.



CONTACT: Lynn Landes, Zero Waste America, 215-629-3553, lynnlandes@earthlink.net

DATE: Sept 16, 1998


Contrary to statements made by Gov. Ridge of Pennsylvania and the governors of other waste importing states, the Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit clearly gave the states the authority to control waste imports, says Lynn Landes, Director of Zero Waste America (ZWA), an Internet-based environmental organization.

Landes notes that the Courts’ decisions specifically allows states to implement regulations that may impact waste imports without discriminating against imports. For example, ZWA has long recommended the implementation of Waste Disposal Bans as a constitutional way to permanently downsize the number of waste imports. The bans would prohibit designated wastes from all disposal facilities and would apply equally to both in-state and out-of-state waste. As the number of waste bans increase, waste imports decrease. Waste bans currently employed by the states are often partial, not comprehensive, bans.

Why are the governors insisting that states cannot stop waste imports without Congressional legislation?

"Either the governors and their staffs haven’t read these decisions carefully or they are trying to shift the responsibility for controlling waste imports onto Congress. In that regard, the proposed Congressional legislation is pretty worthless. It will not substantially affect waste imports. It is a gift to the waste industry," says Landes.

She explains that the proposed Congressional legislation would not substantially affect the waste industry, as it only applies to municipal waste (a small fraction of all waste disposed) and allows for community agreements with waste corporations which can supercede state actions to control waste imports. This could encourage hazardous waste imports. It would leave the environment unprotected and disadvantaged communities vulnerable to financial and legal persuasion from the waste industry.

Landes cites the following cases to substantiate her court findings: City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, U.S. Supreme Court (1978), and National Solid Waste Association v. Meyer (representing Wisconsin), Federal Court of Appeal, 7th Circuit (1995).

In the New Jersey case, The Supreme Court suggested how New Jersey could protect its environment, "And it may be assumed as well that New Jersey may pursue those ends by slowing the flow of all waste into the State's remaining landfills, even though interstate commerce may incidentally be affected."

In the Wisconsin case, the Seventh Circuit stated: "Specifically, the Wisconsin statute makes clear that, if the waste is processed by a materials recovery facility that separates the eleven listed materials, the waste will conform to the environmental needs of Wisconsin. Accordingly, Wisconsin could realize its goals of conserving landfill space and protecting the environment by mandating that all waste entering the State first be treated at a materials recovery facility with the capacity to effect this separation."

See: Faulty Federal Interstate Waste Legislation
See: Waste Cases for links to complete cases
See: The U.S. Waste Crisis, EPA's Failure to Require State Solid Waste Plans