Interstate Shipment of Municipal Solid Waste: 2002 Update

Publication Date: November 2002

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Environment



This report, which replaces CRS Report RL31051, provides updated information on interstate shipment of municipal solid waste (MSW). Since the late 1980s, Congress has considered, but not enacted, numerous bills that would allow states to impose restrictions on interstate waste shipments, a step the Constitution prohibits in the absence of congressional authorization. Over this period, there has been a continuing interest in knowing how much waste is being shipped across state lines for disposal, and what states might be affected by proposed legislation. This report provides data useful in addressing these questions.

Total interstate waste shipments continue to rise due to the closure of older local landfills and the increasing consolidation of the waste management industry. About 35 million tons of municipal solid waste crossed state lines for disposal in 2001, an increase of 9.4% over 2000. Waste imports have grown each year since CRS began tracking them in the early 1990s, and now represent 21.6% of all municipal solid waste disposed at landfills and waste combustion facilities. In the last eight years, reported imports have increased 141%.

Pennsylvania remains, by far, the largest waste importer. The state received 10.7 million tons of municipal solid waste and 1.9 million tons of other nonhazardous waste from out of state in 2001, more than 30% of the national total for interstate shipments. Virginia, the second largest importer, received 4.1 million tons, 62% less than the amount received by Pennsylvania. Michigan, the third largest importer, imported 3.6 million tons of MSW in fiscal year 2001; waste imports to Michigan have doubled since 1999. Twenty-three states had increased imports in the current report – the largest increases occurring in Pennsylvania and Michigan. In all, eight states reported imports that exceeded one million tons.

While waste imports increased overall, several states (including New Hampshire, South Carolina, Connecticut, Arizona, and Washington) reported sharp declines in waste imports.

New York remains the largest exporter of waste, with New Jersey and Illinois in second and third place, respectively. Four states (New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Maryland) account for more than half the national total of waste exports.