ZWD Analysis of Detroit Future City Solid Waste recommendations

Zero Waste Detroit applauds the very positive points regarding recycling in the Detroit Future City report, specifically:

  • Recognition that recycling can create economic opportunity;
  • Recognition that routes for waste collection can be optimized for shifting refuse patterns and practices;
  • Recommendation that curbside recycling should be expanded to city wide;
  • Articulation of the need to reduce waste.

Zero Waste Detroit notes the following omissions in the DFC Strategic Framework:

  • Detroit Future City omits reference to the City Charter mandate (Article 7-403) to recycle PRIOR to DISPOSAL, which excludes incineration as a qualifier of “recovery.”
  • DFC omits any reference to an overall Solid Waste Management System, i.e. the hierarchy of solid waste management recommended by the EPA, which gives top priority to waste reduction, second to recycling.
  • Nothing in Detroit Future City mentions the positive role that a City Ordinance on recycling could play to increase capture of the waste stream’s value.
  • DFC is devoid of strategy to increase recycling beyond working with packaging industry; DFC is limited in how it portrays localized solutions to waste, e.g effective strategies include shared revenues for recyclable materials with recycling entities.
  • DFC neglects to acknowledge that the presence of the incinerator is an environmental justice and quality of life factor in Midtown and the surrounding area.

Zero Waste Detroit sees opportunity for Detroit beyond that stated in the Strategic Framework:

  • The City has NO recycling goals, i.e. to reclaim XX tonnage from the waste stream. Mandating that all businesses and institutions recycle will build the commodity stream.
  • The City has no “pay as you throw” system that will increase recycling dramatically in a short period of time: e.g., the City of Baltimore also has an incinerator and introduced city-wide recycling and has saved $1M+ in one year.
  • Through procurement the City can reduce waste by buying recyclable and reusable products for all departments: e.g., surface material that is made out of crumb rubber that is permeable will save the City millions annually in waste water system costs and reduce chemical releases (chlorine) into the environment.
  • The City has great potential to serve as “bully pulpit” for encouraging residents into new habits.
  • The City must remove itself as an advocate for the incinerator: e.g. DFC’s articulation that “there may be a need ‘for greater waste streams from outside Detroit.’” The “needs of the incinerator” is very different from evaluating whether the incinerator is beneficial to the City, its residents, and the planet.
  • The City can be proactive in recruiting composting, reuse and recycling companies to vacant warehouses and land.
  • The school system can save money and increase recycling education by contracting with a recycling company as opposed to a waste hauling company.
  • The City can require deconstruction of all public buildings. This policy in Baltimore has helped increase employment in a local non-profit deconstruction enterprise, which now has close to 90 workers, most of whom were hired from the City’s TANF rolls.

Zero Waste Detroit notes faulty assumptions in the Strategic Framework:

  • Green infrastructures are…facilities like the Detroit Recovery Facility, which incinerates household waste”—Incineration, as the facility at I-94 and I-75, should not be characterized as “green” infrastructure.
  • DFC inaccurately portrays the waste disposal contract between The Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority (GDRRA) and Detroit Renewable Power, the incinerator owners. DRP is not contracted with the GDRRA or to “match the lowest price offered by any alternative provider.”
  • Meeting EPA standards for emissions should be a given for any operation within the City and is not notable as a “goal.”
  • DFC references Detroit DPW’s Solid Waste Plan: if this references the report from Dvirka and Bartilucci in 2007, which the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority commissioned, it is not an official plan adopted or endorsed by City Council.

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