Advocates Want Zero Waste Without Incineration
Local and national advocates praise Baltimore moving towards zero-waste but warn of the dangers of further contamination by trash incinerators
JAISAL NOOR: Baltimore took a step towards recycling or reusing every piece of trash it collects, as a measure that would move the city towards zero waste advanced out of committee Tuesday.
AHMINA MAXEY: Zero waste is really, and not only zero waste, but getting on the path towards zero waste, is doing as much work as possible to minimize the amount of waste that is generated. From that waste it is generated to recycle and compost as much of it as we can, so that we really have barely anything left. What is left, which is called residuals, we then are redesigned so that their, the packaging the things that are left are no longer waste and can be recycled and reused again.
JAISAL NOOR: During the hearing advocates acknowledged eliminating all waste would be impossible, but noted that cities like San Francisco are currently recycling or repurposing more than 80% of their waste and Maryland should aim for a similar goal. The committee advanced it to the full counsel without objections. The measure has 14 cosponsors and city agencies submitted reports in support. Among the supporters were national leaders like Destiny Watford. The Real News documented her efforts to defeat a purposed trash burning incinerator in her south Baltimore neighborhood of Curtis Bay. She joined advocates who stressed incineration should not be considered zero waste.
DESTINY WATFORD: Think the incinerator is one step of a much larger process. We saw something that we don’t, that we know that we don’t want, but then the question is what do we do with our waste.
JAISAL NOOR: The state of Maryland has a goal of reaching zero waste by 2040. Watford and others like Ahmina Maxey say this must be reached without using incineration. They were in Baltimore for a national meeting of the Global Alliance For Incinerator Alternatives.
AHMINA MAXEY: Zero waste is such an important issue, especially in environmental justice communities that are already dealing with such a myriad of issues. Talk about jobs, you talk about education, you talk about this host of things. Zero waste can create jobs where they’re needed and create ten times the jobs within zero waste than it can within traditional waste or land filling or incineration. You improve the conditions for community folks. Say if the incinerator closes, that community no longer has to deal with the air pollution impacts, right? The asthma that results as a result of that. So, their health improves. You also have the benefit of economically. Incinerators are one of the, they have the highest capital costs of any form of energy generation, even more than nuclear. We really save money as far as not investing in these dirty forms of energy that hurt your community.
JAISAL NOOR: City agencies say they support the measure, including the department of public works.
MARCIA COLLINS: One of the things about zero waste that’s important is that we all have a responsibility to make it successful. We have the personal commitment, the behavioral change. The opportunities to maybe handle our waste differently. We have the things that we can do legislatively, both at the state and local level. Then, we have the things that in addition to the private sector what the government sector can do. It’s all part and parcel of everything that we’re working toward.
JAISAL NOOR: Advocates from around the country testified in support of the measure, including some of those leading successful zero waste efforts in San Francisco.
JACK MACY: We join you today in sharing a little bit about San Francisco’s story. The message that I really want to give to you today is the basis of San Francisco’s success and recognition as a sustainability leader is the critical importance and power of public policy to drive innovation and to drive the development of comprehensive programs and in working with stakeholders to create the benefits that we can get through increased diversion and moving towards zero waste.
RUTH ABBE: We need both a top-down and bottom-up approach. We need top-down in terms of policy, initiatives, guidance. We also need bottom-up in terms of universal support and participation and programs. Neighborhood, neighborhood to neighborhood and to provide leadership and models from all through the community.
JAISAL NOOR: During public comment activists spoke out against labeling trash incinerators as renewable energy. Taking aim at the city’s BRESCO incinerator for releasing dangerous levels of pollutants and diverting recyclable or reusable refuse.
JESSICA WYNTER-MARTIN: We notice on your resolution that you have listed them as a waste to energy, a waste energy incinerator. This is a misleading and inaccurate term. These incinerators do not convert waste into energy, they convert our waste into toxic ash and toxic air pollution which is poisoning our residents.
DANTE SWINTON: It’s the number one polluter in sulfur dioxide. Number one in hydrochloric acids. Number one in nitrogen oxides. Number one in mercury. Number three in particulate matter. In fact, in terms of nitrogen oxides, if you were to shut down Wheelabrator it’s like taking half the cars or half the trucks off the road, in terms of nitrogen oxide emissions. This one facility.
JAISAL NOOR: Next, the bill goes to the full city counsel. We’ll keep following the story. For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.