The Minneapolis Garbage Burner is Bad

An Environmental Justice Epic

By Marya Hart

I’m old enough to remember when the downtown Minneapolis garbage burner, euphemistically named the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) was built. The garbage burner's test run involved burning paper city residents had put out for recycling: the first in a series of betrayals. Those of us with long memories also recall then-Commissioner Peter McLaughlin's pledge that not an iota of mercury would be emitted through the burner's smokestacks.

Even before that pledge was proven hollow, it was apparent it could not be kept. We now know that the garbage burner, poised on the border of North Minneapolis, contributes to an unhealthy environment for low-income people of color.

As Minneapolis service workers campaign for fair wages, better working conditions, and environmental justice, the garbage burner is one of the targets of their campaign. You can read an extensive and eye-opening report on this and other issues here. It's heartening to see the service workers' union drawing the lines between racial, economic, and environmental justice.

photo of demonstration Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow