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Eric Stirgus
By Eric Stirgus July 6, 2011

Deal hopes bill will cut landfill waste

Nathan Deal vowed as governor that he would do more to protect Georgia"s natural resources.

One area he talked about were landfills, those ugly mountains of trash that smell, well, bad and no one wants in their neighborhoods.

"Deal also calls for reducing landfill waste by promoting new waste reduction methods,” Deal"s campaign said in one press release.

PolitiFact Georgia is tracking 37 promises Deal made on the campaign trail last year. About two-thirds of those promises haven"t been rated, for lack of movement. Six of them have been rated as In The Works, two have been rated as Promise Kept, two as Stalled and one as a Promise Broken.

So how"s Deal, who took office in January, doing on the campaign promise of reducing landfill waste?

State officials point to House Bill 274 as proof of progress. The legislation, signed by Deal on May 11, offers waste facilities a 75-cent credit for each ton of construction or demolition waste that is recycled. Georgia Environmental Protection Division land protection branch chief Mark Smith noted that as a positive in an email to us.

Some environmental activists say the legislation still smells bad to them. Sierra Club of Georgia chairman Mark Woodall called HB 274 "a setback for the environment.” He contends the legislation was written by the landfill industry, noting a provision in the bill that allows yard trimmings to be disposed in lined landfills.

"It"s the worst thing that"s happened to recycling in 20 years,” Woodall said of the bill.

The bill"s supporters counter that those yard trimmings can only be taken to landfills where gases from the materials can be converted into reusable energy. Smith said about 50 percent of local governments reported yard trimmings went to construction and demolition and inert landfills, which don"t have systems to capture gas and potentially convert it into reusable energy.

EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers noted that landfill waste has declined from 16.3 million tons in the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2008 to 12 million tons in the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2010.

Woodall attributes the decrease not to state efforts, but a result of the Great Recession which struck Georgia in full force in 2008. He believes more landfill waste will come from outside Georgia and the annual total will increase. State officials say nearly 2 million tons of waste came from outside Georgia in the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2010, a 17 percent increase from the prior 12 months. EPD officials said they don"t have data for how much waste from Georgia was hauled to other states.

State officials hope the legislation will encourage more composting, which may result in less landfill waste. We"ll keep a close eye to see if that happens. For now, we rate this campaign promise as In The Works.

Our Sources

Georgia House Bill 274

E-mails from Georgia Department of Environmental Protection, May 18, 2011 and June 30, 2011.

Georgia Environmental Action Network, Action Alert

Telephone interview with Sierra Club of Georgia chairman Mark Woodall, June 30, 2011.

Telephone interview with Georgia Environmental Protection Division official Mark Smith, June 30, 2011.

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