I lived in Minneapolis for seven years before knowing that there was a garbage burner in the middle of the city. During that time I enjoyed driving around the highways, watching the skyline shift and change as the road wrapped around its edges. The western side, renovated with the addition of a sparkling new stadium, was my favorite angle.
When I learned about the HERC incinerator it became the only thing I could see, with its plumes of heavy smoke pouring from the northwest corner, right next to the Twins logo. It may sound melodramatic to some, but for me it tarnished the image of the city I had always thought was so distinguished and beautiful. The worst part is, even with the addition of single-sort recycling, we still burn 1,000 tons of garbage a day, 80% of which is recyclable or compostable materials.
HERC was built in the late 1980s as a short-term solution to landfilling, to be used until a better system was developed. With examples of other cities raising their recycling rates with newly implemented recycling and composting systems, there is little argument to the necessity of a garbage burner inside or anywhere near our city limits.
The vast majority of folks I meet who know about the incinerator wish it was gone, especially those with a view of it from their own homes. Not only is it a primary source of air pollution in the Twin Cities, second only to cars, but miles within its radius are multiple elementary schools, as well as several low-income neighborhoods.
According to the EPA, Americans on average tend to generate 4.5 pounds per day. With only 1.5 pounds of that being recycled or composted, individuals accumulated over 250 million tons of trash in 2012. We have the misfortune of forgetting that garbage is something that doesn’t exist until humans create it—shouldn’t we at least have the obligation to reduce the amount of garbage in the first place?
Written by: MPIRG Field Organizer Ali Goldberg