Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Is Recycling So Important?

by Sylvia Inwood, co-chair of the Detroit Greens Local

Ever wonder what happens to your garbage after it’s picked up? Of course, Detroiters know our garbage is burned in the huge incinerator at Russell and Ferry near Eastern Market. But, what happens to the garbage after it’s burned? Like all matter, it doesn’t just disappear and, in this case, it’s transformed into poisonous gases that pollute the air.

The Detroit incinerator is one of the largest sources of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides in Wayne County. These pollutants aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses and contribute to acid rain. Detroit’s highest asthma hospitalization rates are in the neighborhoods closest to the incinerator. Wayne County is fifth in the country in asthma-related deaths among the African American population and has some of the worst air quality in the country.

The benefits of recycling go beyond reducing waste. Recycling conserves more energy than incineration can produce, by creating new products from recycled rather than new materials, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Using less energy means lower greenhouse gas emissions (the cause of global warming). Additionally, recycling of paper allows more trees to remain standing in forests, thus reducing our carbon footprint on the planet.

In January 2007 the Detroit City Council Environmental and Recycling Task Force approved a plan for the future of Detroit's solid waste management. The plan calls for closing Detroit's trash incinerator in 2009. The report emphasizes the creation of jobs and improvements in public health through pollution prevention by implementing a comprehensive recycling program. According to Waste News, Detroit is the only city of the thirty largest cities in the United States that does not have any form of curbside recycling. The report conservatively estimates that a 50% recycling rate in Detroit would likely result in creating more than 1,000 new jobs in the city of Detroit.

Until the incinerator is shut down and until Detroit has curbside recycling, what can we do? We can separate our recyclable items from the trash and take them to a drop-off center. There are several recycling centers in the city area. Neighbors can help one another by carpooling to recycling drop off locations. Recyclean is the recycling contractor for the city with a monthly eastside drop off at Jefferson and Chalmers. Paper can be recycled in the green and yellow bin behind 2300 Marseille (a fundraiser for Hanstein School). (See listing on this page for drop off locations and details of recyclable materials.)

Sylvia Inwood has lived in Cornerstone Village since 2003

Detroit Greens


Anonymous said...

As important as recycling is why doesn't Detroit have a recycling pickup weekly or at least monthly? I've been in other Michigan cities where paper, glass and plastic are picked up in separate boxes from in front of the house. We are already paying extra to have the trash and yard waste picked up (whenever they come) so we could just add recycling to the yard waste day.

Anonymous said...

Detroit does not have any curbside recycling because of the city management's wrong-headed decision to build the incinerator back in the 1990's. (Similar to the same kind of greedy shortsighted decision made in the late 1940's to eliminate streetcars & otherwise degrade Detroit's public transit system so the Big Three could sell more cars...) There is now an opportunity to shut down the incinerator in 2009 when the current operating loan is paid off (to the Phillip Morris tobacco company, I think? Another irony!). The activists who protested the building of this foul belching behemoth in the first place are among those now engaged in an effort to see it gets shut down for good. I would like to note the article on which you have commented was written for my east side neighborhood newsletter with the aim of educating the residents about the hazards of the incinerator & the importance of recycling. At each of its monthly neighborhood drop-offs, Recyclean collects recyclers' zip codes in order to track which city areas have the most recyclers. Their short-term goal is to have the city institute curbside recycling beginning in those areas (as identified by zip code) which already have the most residents actively recycling. I am not sure of the target date for this. Recyclean recognizes it will have to gradually nudge the city into curbside recycling 'hood by 'hood.

Sylvia Inwood

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