100+ Environmental Groups Urge Rep. Tonko and Pallone to Drop Waste Incineration from CLEAN Future Act

Waste Incineration Worsens Climate Change, Pollutes Environmental Justice Communities 

March 31, 2021- Over 100 environmental justice groups and environmental organizations in New York, New Jersey and around the country are demanding that Representatives Tonko (NY-20)  and Pallone (NJ-06) drop “waste-to-energy” incineration from the CLEAN Future Act. 

The inclusion of “waste to energy” (WTE) incineration as “clean electricity” in the CLEAN Future Act of 2021 undermines the very positive environmental justice protections in the bill and will set the country back from its goals of addressing the climate crisis: 

  • Burning waste is dirtier than burning fossil fuels. Per unit of electricity generated, WTE incinerators emit 3.8 times as much greenhouse gases (GHGs) (1.9 times as much fossil C02, 15 times as much N02 & CH4, and 66 times as much biogenic C02) as the grid average. They also emit 14 times as much N0x and 1.3 times as much S02 which cause local air pollution and acid rain. 
  • Burning waste is toxic. The emissions from waste incineration have been linked to increased asthma risks, reduced lung function, and greater likelihood of hospital admissions, especially among children and people with respiratory conditions.
  • 79% of incinerators are located in environmental justice communities: The locating of WTE facilities in these communities is a form of environmental racism. WTE adds to the cumulative burden of pollution on low-income, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities that causes long-term, multi-generational health impacts from toxic air pollution.

”Rather than propping up a dying industry, the CLEAN Future Act should focus on solutions that move us away from a waste management approach that shackles communities to toxic, polluting facilities that harm health and impede economic growth,” says Denise Patel, GAIA US & Canada Program Director. Studies show that zero waste strategies score highest on environmental benefits and create the most jobs of any waste management approach, creating up to 200x more jobs than waste disposal. Transitioning to zero waste systems and building true clean, renewable energy systems is clearly a win-win solution for the climate and the economy.” 

“Burning garbage is not clean energy and it is disappointing that the Clean Future Act actually includes financial incentives to burn a portion of the waste stream. Not only do incinerators emit air pollution and generate a staggering amount of toxic ash that must be disposed of in special landfills, but they are also often sited in low income communities and communities of color– a stark example of environmental racism, said Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator. “There are some very good solid waste provisions in this bill, but they are overshadowed by the pro-incineration provision which needs to go to ensure its efficacy.”

“Representative Tonko’s CLEAN Future Act is neither clean nor forward looking, pushing a climate and energy plan that will keep us hooked on fossil fuels, while propping up false climate solutions like carbon capture technology and  incineration,” said Eric Weltman, a New York Senior Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “We need better from Representative Tonko. As chair of the House Subcommittee on the environment and climate, we need him to support a rapid and just transition off fossil fuels, not double down on dirty energy.”

This campaign is part of a Global Day of Action demanding that leaders around the world go #BeyondRecovery  to a future where zero waste practices drive clean air and water, more and better jobs, and a healthy environment for our families and communities, as our planet returns to a life-sustaining pathway where nothing and no one is wasted.

Read the open letter. 

Read the open letter from 50 New York based organizations.

For more information about how zero waste can support a sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19, visit zerowasteworld.org/beyondrecovery. 

Press contacts:

Claire Arkin | Communications Coordinator | claire@no-burn.org | +1 ‪(856) 895-1505

Alexis Goldsmith | National Organizing Director Beyond Plastics | alexisgoldsmith@bennington.edu  | +1 (260) 444-1341

GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. 

Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project based at Bennington College in Vermont that pairs the wisdom and experience of seasoned environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of concerned citizens of all ages to build a vibrant and effective movement to end plastic pollution. www.BeyondPlastics.org