Detroit is famous for its crime rate, Motown music and is also known as the auto capital of the world. Few people know that it is home to one of the world’s largest incinerators. For more than 20 years, Detroit’s incinerator burns more than 800,000 tons of trash every year! Much of the local community, including workers and management feel that this facility is not cost effective, and is simply a lazy alternative to landfills. Parents feel that it is responsible for the incessant rise in asthma cases. Clearly, locals do not feel the incinerator is best for the long-term progression of Detroit.
A social impact identified above, shutting down the incinerator would create more jobs for the people of Detroit: “four times as many jobs as the incinerator employs.” However, Detroit Renewable Power, which is a subsidiary of Detroit Renewable Energy, LLC processes up to 3,300 tons of waste per day, generating 68 megawatts of electricity. They believe that this is both an “economic and environmental win”; in their 2012 second quarter report, it states that every one ton of public waste burned equals 500 pounds of recyclable metal, one barrel of oil avoided, 500 pounds of domestic coal displaced and one ton of greenhouse gas emissions removed. These types of statistics make the city of Detroit basically discourage recycling! To receive these types of results, the incinerator needs to reach a quota of trash, and actually has to request trash from surrounding towns to meet this quota instead of simply recycling and neglecting the incinerator.
What Detroit Renewable Energy, LLC is not considering is that the incinerator is the nastiest polluter in Michigan because it emits sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead into the atmosphere (see Figure 1) – all pollutants which can be noxious to human health and in the long term cost the local government and residents high healthcare expenses which could be avoided. The incinerator is especially detrimental to children’s health. The East Michigan Environmental Council, report that Detroit’s asthma hospitalization rates for children living around the incinerator to be 3 times the national average. Both nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide augment respiratory diseases and contribute to acid rain.
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