Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD) is a coalition of over twenty community, environmental and environmental justice organizations. Our goal is to move the City of Detroit to a solid waste management system that gives top priority to recycling and materials recovery, and away from waste incineration.
Zero Waste Detroit began in 2006 as a small group of citizens and organizers concerned about Detroit’s solid waste model. The group began addressing the Mayor, City Council, and the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority (the oversight body of the incinerator) about prioritizing recycling over incineration. As a result of this advocacy a Council resolution supporting ZWD’s waste model was passed in 2008, and the first curbside recycling program rolled out in 2009. The coalition then partnered with the City of Detroit to educate residents on recycling and boost participation in the curbside program. ZWD also got language included in the reform City Charter that mandates recycling as the first option for solid waste management.
While working to boost recycling awareness, ZWD also continued to hold the Detroit Incinerator accountable for their impact on community. In 2010, ZWD organized a march and demonstration of over a thousand at the US Social Forum to raise awareness of the Incinerator and need for alternative waste disposal methods. They also initially defeated the Incinerator from receiving $4.5 M in Brownfield tax credits in 2011. Although City Council did finally approve the tax credit, despite strong community objections, ZWD worked to ensure the credits were contingent upon the company fixing existing odor problems.
Currently the City of Detroit has a contract with the incinerator that goes to 2021 which does not require minimum tonnage and allows for a recycling program. This leaves a window of opportunity for citywide expansion of the curbside recycling, which is currently only in 3 neighborhoods. Zero Waste Detroit is committed to expansion of the curbside recycling program citywide, and in 2013 hired a Community Outreach Coordinator to work toward this effort.