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Lawmakers look to regulate trash burning

Michael C. Rael

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.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.