Release: Action to End Detroit’s Wasteful Incinerator

Photo: Langelle/GJEP


For Immediate Media Release Saturday, 26 July 2010

Action to End Detroit’s Wasteful Incinerator

(to view photo essay from action, click here)

Frontline Communities and Teamsters Demand Clean Air, Good Jobs and Justice

Detroit, Michigan, U.S. – Environmental justice advocates from across the U.S., the Teamsters Union, and neighborhood residents marched together this morning to the world’s largest waste incinerator to demand its closure. Representatives of Detroit’s pollution-impacted communities and their allies from across the country united to press the city’s Mayor for a just transition from burning waste to building resiliency in the face of ill-health, a crumbling economy, and the global climate crisis.

The action occurred during the last day of the U.S. Social Forum.

“Frontline communities in Detroit are taking a stand against the violence of pollution and poverty that burning waste, coal, and oil brings to their families,” said Sandra Turner-Handy of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Recycling is our best option to replace incineration, creating much more employment and reducing the toxic burden for our children.”

“We are demanding that Mayor Bing and the City Council protect our health and economy with zero waste alternatives that provide more jobs and a better quality of life,” said Ahmina Maxey, of East Michigan Environmental Council.

Today’s spirited march began at the Detroit Public Library, with demonstrations, music, and popular theater in parks along the way, and culminated at the municipal waste incinerator, owned by Covanta, the world’s largest incinerator company. Detroit residents spoke about the incinerator’s cost to their health and economy; allies from several states, as well as First Nations people from Canada, shared stories of the burdens of pollution and their efforts to win clean energy and good jobs. At an elementary school next to the incinerator, students, parents and protestors planted fruit trees and flowers.

Detroit’s children suffer asthma rates three times the national average [1]. The municipal incinerator is a major contributor to these devastating health impacts. Meanwhile, the recycling rate in the city is less than a third the national average.

City Councilwoman Joanne Watson linked the health problems of pollution to racism. “There is absolutely no level of toxicity that’s acceptable,” she said, and urged “Zero tolerance for poison and contamination in our communities.”

“In Detroit, hundreds of local BP-style disasters occur every day,” said Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program. “The impact is immense, and entirely avoidable.”

More than 90% of materials disposed of in incinerators and landfills can be reused, recycled and/or composted, creating both jobs and community resilience. [2] Incinerators emit 30% more CO2 per unit of electricity than coal-fired power plants, adding significantly to global warming.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union turned out their members in support of local Environmental Justice concerns, and stated their interest in creating local, family-supporting jobs through a transition from incineration to recycling.

“The facts are clear,” said Michael Martin of the Michigan Teamsters. “Recycling creates six to ten times more jobs than incinerating or land-filling. We support a comprehensive recycling program in Detroit, and we look forward to working with Mayor Bing, the City Council, the Zero Waste Detroit coalition, and our elected representatives in achieving this goal.” [3]

For a list of all groups involved see Note [2]


Ahmina Maxey, East MI Environmental Action Council: +1.313.332.5389

Sandra Turner-Handy, MI Environmental Council: +1.313.926.9811

Margaret Weber, Zero Waste Detroit: +1.313.938.1133

Ananda Lee Tan, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives: +1.415.374.0615

Celia Petty, Teamsters Union: +1.202.624.8719, +1.202.437.1093

Contact Orin Langelle for high-resolution press photos +1.802.578.6980



[1] Detroit Asthma Coalition: <>

[2] <>

[3] Full Teamster statement: Saturday, June 26, 2006

Turning Waste into Good Jobs and a Clean Environment:

Michigan Teamsters Call for a Comprehensive Recycling Program in the City of Detroit.

We support a comprehensive recycling program in the City of Detroit, to include residential and commercial activities. We look forward to working with Mayor Bing, the City Council, the Zero Waste Detroit coalition and our elected representatives to the state of Michigan in achieving this goal.

The facts are clear: recycling creates six to ten times the number of jobs than incinerating or landfilling the same amount of waste. But that’s not all: by recycling our waste we can recover economically valuable materials, and drastically limit the hazardous pollution to which so many Detroiters are exposed to through incineration.

In addition, recycling is a cost effective measure to deal with climate change induced by greenhouse gases: avoiding one ton of CO equivalent emissions through recycling costs 30% less than doing so through energy efficiency, and 90% less than wind power.

Detroiters have wasted more than a billion dollars in the last 20 years to subsidize the region in burning garbage. It has been costly in terms of money, lack of innovation and employment, and harmful to the health of surrounding communities and the region as a whole. We need to change that.

The Teamsters are on the frontlines of the transition to a green economy across our nation, representing 30,000 workers in the waste and recycling industry. We support those recycling initiatives that provide long-term, family-supporting, local jobs, with opportunities for improvement, comprehensive benefits, strong occupational health and safety standards, and recognize workers’ right to collective bargaining.

The time to act is now: for good jobs, for clean air, for a sustainable waste management industry.

Joseph Valenti,


Teamsters Local 214

State, County and Municipal Workers, State of Michigan

Paul M. Kozicky,


Teamsters Local 247

Solid and Hazardous Waste Workers

Lawrence Brennan,


Teamsters Joint Council 43,

State of Michigan

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