Environmental advocates don't want Hennepin County to burn more trash

Hennepin County should find ways to reduce waste or recycle more instead of burning more trash at its Minneapolis incinerator, environmental advocates said Tuesday.

The Hennepin Energy Recovery Center is seeking a 20 percent increase in the amount of trash it can burn each day. But environmentalists say the city should reject the proposal because the incinerator already emits pollutants that can be harmful to people's health.

"It's not fair," said Josh Winters, executive director of the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group, which called on Minneapolis city leaders to reject Hennepin County's burn request. "We're bearing the brunt of the air pollution that comes out of the HERC stack even when we're doing a better job of moving toward zero waste."

Burning more trash flies in the face of the city's efforts to improve recycling rates, and the county should work to recycle or compost more trash instead of burning it, he added.

The incinerator emits mercury, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants. Hennepin County and Covanta Energy, which runs the incinerator located in downtown Minneapolis near Target Field, have said the facility's emissions meet state regulations and would continue to meet standards even if burning 20 percent more trash. They have also said burning more trash would create more electricity and prevent more waste from entering landfills.

State regulators expect to finish an environmental study by early next year analyzing the air emissions that would result from more burning.

Winters applauded efforts in Minneapolis to increase recycling by implementing single-sort recycling. But he said other Hennepin County communities need to do more.

"We have a number of ways to manage this waste that don't result in health-damaging air pollutants and that actually can have the potential to create local jobs," Winters said.

Winters said he hopes Minneapolis and other communities in Hennepin County will be more aggressive about implementing curbside composting, which he said would also cut down on the waste being sent to the incinerator.

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