Those who want to build trash-to-steam plants should pick a town with
less than 25,000 people where residents are old, poor, politically
conservative and Roman Catholic. That is the conclusion of a study
commissioned by the California state Waste Management Board, which
found people most likely to oppose such facilities are young or middle-
aged, college-educated, liberal and Protestant.
The $33,000 study was prepared by Cerrell Associates, a Los Angeles
public relations and political consulting firm.
The study advises builders of waste incineration plants that they will
face less opposition if they put the plants near poor neighborhoods
instead of wealthy ones.
"All socioeconomic groupings tend to resent the nearby siting of major
(waste disposal) facilities, but the middle and upper socioeconomic
strata possess better resources to effectuate their opposition," the
report says. "Middle and higher socioeconomic strata neighborhoods
should not fall at least within (five miles) of the proposed site."
The report gives personality profiles of the most likely and least
likely opponents of waste-to-energy plants, and suggests that trash
incineration can be made more palatable by presenting it as part of a
recycling program. The report outlines ways to defuse opposition. The
report says waste-to-energy plant sites "can be suggested partly on the
basis of neighborhoods least likely to express opposition-older,
conservative and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. Meanwhile the most
likely opponents of a waste-to-energy project--residents in the
vicinity, liberal, and higher-educated persons--can be targeted in a
public participation program and public relations campaign."
The report says the ideal site for a waste-to-energy plant would be in
an industrial section far from homes and commercial activity but within
the trash collection area that would be served. It says: "Commercial
office spaces and residential lands that are at least within visual,
hearing or smelling distance of the waste project will likely
experience a decline in property values."
Wil Baca, one of the leaders of the California Alliance in Defense of
Residential Environments, which opposes trash incineration plants in
populated areas, protested that the state Waste Management Board, in
commissioning the study, sought to find out how "to deceive [people],
to sell them a product they don't want."
It looks to us as if the ideas in this report are being applied across
the country. Time after time, we see sites selected where people are
poor or rural or both. Fortunately, we also see local people
successfully fighting such plans, even making alliances across racial
barriers. The fight against mass burn incinerators (and landfills) has
become a powerful political force, forging new coalitions,
strengthening American democracy in important ways.
The 87-page report, entitled "Political Difficulties Facing Waste-to-
Energy Conversion Plant Siting," was completed four years ago (but only
came to light last year when the LOS ANGELES TIMES broke the story);
copies may still be available from Cerrell Associates in Los Angeles
[phone: (213) 466-3445] or from the California Waste Management Board
in Sacramento [phone: (916) 322-3330].
MORE HAZARDOUS WASTE BURNERS ARE NOT NEEDED IN THE U.S., SAYS NEW STUDY
PREPARED FOR THE EPA
The United States does not need any new commercial hazardous waste
incinerators, and will not need any well into the 1990s, according to a
new study by a private firm (ICF, Inc., of Fairfax, VA), prepared under
contract to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For the study, ICF collected information from 14 hazardous waste
companies (listed below) which, together, operate 83 facilities that
handle at least 70% of the commercial waste processed each year in the
U.S. The 14 firms said there already exists, or by 1991 will exist,
excess commercial incineration capacity.
The 14 companies said they had doubled their own incineration capacity
between 1985 and 1987 (from 349,800 wet tons per year to 694,100 wet
tons). Even greater capacity increases (doubling or tripling present
capacity) is already on the drawing boards for the period 1988 to 1991,
the survey found.
In addition, the survey identified a trend: large generators of
hazardous wastes are changing to on-site incineration and to on-site
waste minimization techniques. More than 90% of hazardous wastes have
traditionally been dumped into lagoons and ponds on-site, but new
regulations that took effect this year require that lagoons and ponds
to be lined with impermeable liners--often an expensive (or impossible)
proposition. The survey concluded that the future of ponds and lagoons
On-site management of wastes is obviously preferable to sending wastes
offsite because the waste generator can control where the wastes go
(thus minimizing liability), and wastes managed on-site are easier to
protect from the prying eyes of the public and of regulators. Waste
sent off-site to commercial facilities must be "manifested"
(accompanied by a paper trail showing who sent how much of what where).
The survey revealed many interesting facts about the hazardous waste
industry. For example, treatment and disposal facilities operated by
the 14 companies received 5.1 million wet tons of wastes in 1987. Of
this, 476,000 wet tons was incinerated in 1987 (up 36% from the
previous year). The amount landfilled was 2.6 million wet tons, up 5%
The 14 firms surveyed were: Chemical Waste Management, Inc. of Oak
Brook, IL; Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI)/CECOS International, Inc.
(Houston, TX); ChemClear, Inc. of Wayne, PA; Envirite Corp. of Plymouth
Meeting, PA; Environmental Services Co. (ENSCO) of Little Rock, AR;
Environmental Waste Services of Waterbury, CT; Envirosafe Services of
King of Prussia, PA); GSX Corp. of Columbia, SC; Rollins Environmental
Services of Wilmington, DE; Ross Incineration Services of Grafton, OH;
Safety-Kleen Corp. of Elgin, IL; Systech Corp. of Xenia, OH; U.S.
Pollution Control, Inc. (USPCI), of Oklahoma City, OK; and W.J.
Lambert/Chemical Resources, Inc., of Tulsa, OK.
The report, titled 1986-1987 SURVEY OF SELECTED FIRMS IN THE COMMERCIAL
HAZARDOUS WASTE MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY is available for $30 from Geoffrey
Black, ICF, 9300 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031-1207; phone (703)-934-
Descriptor terms: cerrell report; poverty; environmental racism;
cerrell associates; siting; incineration; property values;