Photo of a incineration facility with several smokestacks spewing out emissions.

Goodbye, Old Trash Burners

Hello, Zero Waste Solutions

Time’s up for the polluting trash incinerators that are damaging our climate and poisoning communities. So, what do we do with all the trash that we’re burning now? Build new incinerators? Send it all to landfills? No and no. With the right Zero Waste systems in place, we can just get rid of all that trash in the first place. No trash to burn means no more trash burners.

A Legacy of Injustice

Most trash incinerators in the U.S. are more than 30 years old. Since 2000, over 40 U.S. trash incinerators have closed, but that still leaves almost 70 in operation. These remaining incinerators are more dangerous than they’ve ever been.

Red and white striped smoke stack emitting pollution.

As trash burners age, they start to fall apart. That means frequent breakdowns, shutdowns, and malfunctions. When an incinerator shuts down, starts up, or malfunctions, it spews out far more climate-damaging and lung-choking pollution than during normal operations. That’s a scary situation – especially because trash incinerators are already some of the dirtiest, most dangerous sources of air pollution out there (more so than coal-burning power plants).

Even worse, most of these old, broken-down trash burners are located near Black and brown communities, low-income communities, and communities of limited English-speaking proficiency. The last stage of an incinerator’s life  adds insult to injury to decades upon decades of injustice.


Of U.S. trash incinerators are located in or near communities of color or low-income communities


Speeding Up the Timeline

We cannot just wait and let aging trash burners ease into retirement. It’s time to say goodbye to this dirty, polluting industry once and for all.  So how do we do that?

First, state governments must stop supporting the trash-burning industry. Many states with trash burners funnel cash to big incineration companies under the guise of financial help for “renewable energy.”  But that’s absurd. Burning trash to generate electricity is about as far from clean, climate-friendly, renewable energy as you can get. Time to cut trash burners off.

Second, we can “starve the beast,” or implement Zero Waste reforms so that there is far less trash to burn. Solutions that help us reduce, reuse, recycle right, and compost can dramatically reduce our waste. Less trash coming through the door will accelerate the demise of a trash-dependent industry.

Trash burners are on their way out – let’s show them the door as quickly as possible.

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