Breathe Free Detroit

A campaign to shut down the Detroit trash incinerator

Breathe Free Detroit is a community and grassroots-lead campaign fighting to shut down the Detroit incinerator. We work to engage the community, research the financial ties and the public health effects of the incinerator, and encourage decision-makers to stop the pollution of Detroit’s air.

The Facts:

WHAT IS AN INCINERATOR?
 
A facility that burns trash. The Detroit incinerator burns 3,300 tons of trash from homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses each day. What’s leftover is toxic ash that must be landfilled and emissions that pollute our air and contribute to climate change.

WHO OWNS THE INCINERATOR?
 
Detroit Renewable Power (DRP) has owned the incinerator since 2010. On November 30, 2017 Michigan Public Service Commission approved the sale of Detroit Thermal Power (including the incinerator) to Project Mist Holdco LLC of New York City. Sale is pending as of January 2018.

WHERE DOES THE TRASH COME FROM?
Trash burned at the Detroit incinerator comes from cities in ten Michigan counties (Wayne, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, Bay, Genesee, Ingham, Kent, and Livingston), Illinois, Ohio, and Canada.

WHAT DOES THE INCINERATOR COST THE CITY?
 
Detroit pays $25 per ton, approximately 66% more than other cities to send its trash to the incinerator. Pollution from the DRP facility costs $2.6 million in health costs each year.

HOW DOES THE INCINERATOR AFFECT OUR AIR?
DRP violated the federal Clean Air Act 446 times in 2015 and 2016. The violations include failure to monitor sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides, exceeding allowed limits of carbon monoxide emissions, and failure to effectively capture particulate matter.

HOW DOES THE INCINERATOR AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
A high respiratory hazard index in the area around the incinerator means it is one of the most dangerous places in the state to breathe. The incinerator is a health risk for a community that is already overburdened by air pollution.

  • A Detroiter is 3x more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than other Michigan residents. Children living near the incinerator are 5x more likely.
  • Air pollutants released by the incinerator have been found to: cause and activate asthma, cause an increase in the use of asthma medication, and increase asthma-related hospitalizations for children.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health (now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) calls Detroit the “epicenter of asthma”
  • Pollution from the Detroit incinerator can also cause: premature death, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, decreased lung function, coughing and difficulty breathing. Children, older adults, and those with heart or lung diseases are most likely to be affected. 

WHO LIVES NEAR THE INCINERATOR?
 76,681 children live within 5 miles of the incinerator. 87% of residents within one mile are persons of color; 60% live below the federal poverty line, with 20% unemployment.

WHAT ARE THE JUSTICE ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH THE INCINERATOR?
A low-income community of color bears the environmental and public health burden of burning trash from wealthier (and whiter) communities in Michigan (including the Grosse Pointes and Oakland County) and beyond. The Detroit incinerator is a prime example of environmental racism.

WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVES TO INCINERATION?
Robust recycling programs and zero waste initiatives can greatly reduce the amount of trash produced. According to GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), most of what we now waste can be safely and economically recycled, reused, composted, or turned into biogas. We also need to simply use less disposable stuff and redesign our products so that they are toxic-free and built to last. Contact zerowastedetroit.org (313-986-2990) to sign up for a free recycling bin.

WHAT SHOULD RESIDENTS DO?
1. REPORT ODORS to MDEQ’s
Pollution Emerging Alert System hotline: 800-292-4706. Staff are available to receive calls 24/ 7.
Be prepared to provide: Name, Phone #, Address, Time of smell, Location of smell, Nature of smell (i.e. rotten eggs).
2. REPORT LOUD NOISES
coming from the facility to City of Detroit Ombudsman: (313) 224-6000 or City Clerk: (313) 224-3260
3. GET INVOLVED
Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, attend one of our meetings!

News

Media Mention  |  September 4, 2018
Learn more about Breathe Free Detroit in the media.
News  |  August 30, 2018
As Detroiters keep speaking up about the stench, the state is stepping up its response to this longstanding problem. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office sent a letter on July 31 to DRP attorneys, formally notifying them of what neighbors already know: that the curren
News  |  August 30, 2018
Campaign organizer KT Andresky is a seasoned activist and a Detroiter who has lived in the shadow of the incinerator for over a decade. “The thing I’m most excited about is that this is an opportunity for me to do right by my own community,” Andresky says.
News  |  July 23, 2018
This September, two Ecology Center staff members are taking to the streets—and trails—in the fight to end toxic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the Detroit trash incinerator. They’re driven by a simple conviction: everyone deserves to breathe clean air.
News  |  June 27, 2018
Summer’s here and so is the stench of piled up garbage waiting to be burned at the Detroit Renewable Power incinerator. The Ecology Center’s Detroit office is less than two miles away from the incinerator. Last week the wind carried the putrid smells right up to the front door.
News  |  May 30, 2018
On May 18, Breathe Free Detroit activists gathered at the Spirit of Detroit statue to release an extensive research report on the Detroit trash incinerator and to deliver a petition signed by 15,000 people to Mayor Mike Duggan.