Rethink waste management

Emma Wright

I applaud the Minnesota DailyâÄôs endorsement of a single or dual sort recycling system for Minneapolis. This type of system is easier for residents to use and itâÄôs already used by other cities across the country. ItâÄôs likely to increase recycling rates in Minneapolis.
The city of Minneapolis is already working to assess the cost and implementation of this system in the near future. This transition is important, but unfortunately, it lacks the vision necessary to actually address waste management issues in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis didnâÄôt require businesses to recycle until 2011 when a University of Minnesota student working with the Minnesota Public Interest Reasearch Group reached out to his receptive City Council member, Cam Gordon. With Gordon, his staff memberâÄôs expertise and MPIRGâÄôs ability to build the necessary public support, the city adopted a commercial recycling ordinance.
That was the first step. The assessment and potential transition to a single or dual sort recycling system is step two. Currently, MPIRG is working with city council members, city staff and city committees to assess the feasibility of a residential or curbside composting system.
This is step three. Curbside composting has the ability to divert more than 30 percent of garbage from the current waste stream and reduce the resources burned at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center. HERC is a clever way to disguise a multinational corporation garbage burning facility in downtown Minneapolis.
Garbage incineration is polluting our air. It releases dioxins, mercury and other harmful toxins into the air. Right now Covanta, the multinational corporation that runs HERC, is requesting permission to increase their burning capacity by 20 percent from 1,000 tons of garbage per day to 1,212 tons per day at their facility next to Target Field.
Incineration results in significantly more toxic air emissions and carbon emissions per megawatt generated than coal-fired or oil-fired power plants. Despite this, Covanta is working with friends in congress to weaken aspects of the Clean Air Act by making it easier to incinerate garbage.
Holding Covanta accountable is step four. ItâÄôs critical that Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken oppose any and all attempts to weaken the health and environmental standards that are part of the Clean Air Act. At the same time, itâÄôs critical that the citizens of Minneapolis demand information about the health and environmental impacts of expanding garbage incineration downtown.
There hasnâÄôt been a comprehensive public report of assessing both risks and alternatives to incineration for more than 20 years, during which time large-scale composting and recycling have become viable alternatives. Recycling saves more energy than incineration generates.
If Minneapolis is truly looking to reduce energy and resource consumption, lower carbon emissions and improve public health, it needs to lead by example and create an innovative reduction oriented waste management plan.