For better or worse? City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposal to send recycling to the Detroit Renewable Energy plant located near I-94 and I-75. As the recycling market has collapsed, municipalities across the country are searching for alternatives to keep waste out of the growing landfills. The incinerator takes in trash from States across the Midwest and from Canada. Westland only plans to send the recyclables from the curbside program for incineration.
The facility currently provides three primary services: solid waste disposal, electricity, and steam. The incinerator uses steam to power a 68-megawatt turbine. This electricity is then sold to DTE Energy and distributed to customers on the electric grid. The steam is also used to heat several buildings downtown via a system of tunnels known as “the downtown loop.”
The incineration process can release hazardous substances into the air. According to a report from Zero Waste Detroit, “the specific criteria air pollutants that the incinerator emits are particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Hazardous air pollutants are toxic air pollutants that are commonly classified as probable or known carcinogens. The specific hazardous air pollutants emitted by the incinerator are cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and dioxins and furans.”
Channel 7 reported on the incinerator in August 2018. The investigative video can be found here.
If Westland recycling is not sent to the incinerator, it appears that the only alternative would be to send it to a landfill. Problems also exist with the Landfill method, posing environmental dangers such as the introduction of very toxic substances into streams and groundwater. The City of Westland could continue to search for new opportunities in recycling our waste into new products, but that may turn out to be far too expensive. For now, there appears to be no hope left for recycling efforts.