The interstate transport of solid waste has been the subject of legal battles between state and local governments and the federal government.
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the "dormant" Commerce Clause (stating that legislation with discriminatory intent or effect will be found unconstitutional) prohibits states or local governments from banning or placing special burdens on out-of-state waste. The National Waste & Recycling Association is frequently a party to such cases or files amicus briefs in support of its members.
Solid waste is exported from or imported into every state except Hawaii. These shipments are an important and normal part of interstate commerce and are protected by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
These four court cases highlight this significant issue for our industry:
- Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617 (1978)
- Fort Gratiot Landfill v. Michigan, 504 U.S. 353 (1992)
- Chemical Waste Mgmt. v. Hunt, 504 U.S. 334 (1992)
- Oregon Waste Systems, Inc. v. Oregon, 511 U.S. 93 (1994)
The National Waste & Recycling Association is frequently a party to such cases or files amicus briefs in support of its members. For example, in April 2004 the Association filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging several new Michigan laws seeking to reduce the amount of out-of-state solid waste disposed in the state’s landfills. The Association alleged these laws discriminated against out-of-state waste and especially waste originating in Canada, in violation of the Commerce Clause and the Foreign Affairs Power. Similarly, in September 2003, we filed a lawsuit challenging a Wayne County, MI, law prohibiting landfills from accepting waste from communities that do not have a beverage container law as it exists in Michigan NSWMA v. Wayne County, 303 F. Supp.2d 835 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
The National Waste & Recycling Association and its members have also successfully struck down discriminatory state laws in Wisconsin and Virginia:
- NSWMA v. Meyer, 165 F. 3d 1151(7th Cir. 1999)
- Waste Management Holdings v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316 (4th Cir. 2001)
- Interstate Shipment of Municipal Solid Waste: 2007 Update is the most recent publication by the Congressional Research Service. According to the CRS survey, in 2005 approximately 42 million tons of municipal solid waste was transported across state lines for disposal in landfills or incinerators.
- Our report "Interstate Movement of Solid Waste: 2005" provides additional data and information on this issue.
- The Association’s testimony before the U.S. House or Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee (Aug, 2001) provides additional information.
- Our testimony at a Michigan legislative hearing clearly presents the protections given by international law to the movement of American and Canadian solid and hazardous waste across international borders.
- The legal section found on this page, provides several references to legal cases in this area.