Activists Mike Ewall, left, and Zulene Mayfield stand in front of the Covanta incinerator in Chester, Pennsylvania. The incinerator brings in garbage from New York, Ohio and other states.

Not so long ago, China processed 40 per cent of United States recyclables. However, in 2018 China decided to stop importing a lot of this garbage. This decision left U.S. cities with big mountains of recyclables to process. So now in many cases, they are just burning them. 

The case of Chester, Philadelphia

In the past three months, fear has risen in cities like Chester about pollution coming from incinerators. The government declares that half of the city recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned.

Population living near industries and dumping sites are more vulnerable to toxic pollution. About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to a huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City every day since Cina’s import ban came into practice last year. Moreover, most of the trash and recyclables burned is imported, sometimes from places far away like New York City or North Carolina.

The population is already suffering the consequences

” There are higher than normal rates of heart disease, stroke and asthma in Chester,” public health advocate Marilyn Howarth told The Guardian, “which are all endpoints for poor air.”

“It is difficult to link any single case of cancer, heart disease, or asthma directly to a particular source” Howarth added. “However, the emissions from Covanta contain known carcinogens so they absolutely increase the risk of cancer to area residents.”

Recycling Fraud

The dangerous scam is that people want to do the right thing by recycling but they have no idea where it goes and who it impacts. “The unfortunate thing in the United States is that when people recycle they think it’s taken care of when it was largely taken care of by China,” Paul Gilman, Covanta’s chief sustainability officer, told The Guardian. “When that stopped, it became clear we just aren’t able to deal with it.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Ironically, all these container cargoes would have shipped back to China empty if it were not for American garbage, but now they need the containers to import clean grain and food because they can’t grow and raise any clean food because their soil is polluted because of this American refuse and their own industrial pollution…

    There has never been any true recycling in the USA except in some pilot sites. The key words there are “sustainable” and “local.” Shipping recyclables to faraway countries is plain escapism, denial to deal with your own problem, and worst of all, willfully sacrificing other countries’ citizens lives and health because we perfectly know from numerous documentaries and studies that such recycling is handled manually by the poorest people sifting through heaps of garbage without any form of skin and respiratory protection, often even involving children who should have been going to school instead.

    The lack of true recycling was clear to me when I saw that the residential “recycling” containers were also supposed to be used for glass recycling. I don’t think they have tiny robots with tiny hands and gloves that pick up the tiny individual pieces of broken glass to melt it into recycled glass.

    This is really an area that should be highly automated, including emissions control, and where incineration should be limited to the stuff we can’t recycle, like polystyrene and some food and packaging stuff, while also working on limiting and recycling these materials. The big incinerators should also be coupled to water heating and energy storage and production systems, so that it’s not just pollutants that are not emitted into the air and environment, it’s also all the calories generated by the incineration that should be made use of instead of being wasted and let escaped..

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