Wow. This is incredible. Driving in to Chester City, you can just see the You’re gonna feel it in your throat, in your eyes, and in your nasal
passages. Immediately. Immediately. And live with this stuff is not good. Burning recyclables, burning garbage is for communities. This is one of the places that have been sending their garbage to
for years to be incinerated. But now they’re In January 2018, most of the recycling coming from the U.S. Suddenly, we put into blue recycling bins had creating a crisis for cities around
the country. Curbside recycling programs across the United States that had
been relying on these end use markets in China are now stuck with trying to sort through this
material. Unfortunately, we’ve got a decade of miseducation of the public. The public has gone forward and continued to buy the products and the packaging that were accepted in their blue bin and without realizing that in fact the material is not
recyclable. Cities have to decide whether to
continue to ask the public to put stuff in blue recycling bins in the hopes that new recycling markets will
emerge or to that there simply is for some plastics and paper. And send those items to a Philadelphia’s Streets Director
Scott McGrath made the decision last fall to start sending to the Covanta incinerator, a waste processing facility in Chester City, after the The city quite honestly couldn’t
afford to spend for its recycling. This was just a temporary
arrangement, so we were able to get a price that was a lot more economical. How many tons of waste and recycling are we talking about
here? There’s probably about on the floor right now. So we traveled to see the Covanta incinerator 20 miles outside of Philadelphia in Chester City, a predominantly Black community along the banks of the Delaware
River, whose residents have already been dealing with air quality issues for decades. Why does 33,000 people have to carry the
weight of millions? Why should I be trash manager, waste manager for millions of other
f*ckin’ people? No, no we don’t have to be. Zulene Mayfield is a community
activist who has been fighting for in Chester City for decades. At one time it was a real vibrant community. Summer, springtime, kids playing on the porch, that doesn’t happen anymore. It does not happen. Over the years, have moved in polluting the air, including a paper mill, a water treatment plant, as well as the When you blow your nose, Like, like you’ve been in a house fire or something. It’s just smoky, dark. Zulene introduced us to families who
worry every day about the in Chester. Like Darlynn Johnson, whose are all affected. How has this area affected your health? Well, throughout the years now, I was All three of my kids have asthma. All three of them? All three of them has asthma. You know, different levels but it’s
still there. You feel sick? I’ve always got a cough, he’s always
got a cough, and my daughter’s trying to convince
me she’s asthmatic. Kristy Capanelli moved her family to
Chester last year and says they’re all feeling the
health effects of living in a county the American Lung Association gives an F-rating to when it comes to air quality. I moved from Garnett Valley to this general location. affected my breathing almost
immediately. If you look at Pennsylvania as a whole, there are, you know their It’s not reasonable to believe that Chester somehow has all the people with a genetic predisposition. According to a 2015 EPA report, Covanta was the in the county, which can lead to and other respiratory issues. But the company denies having any adverse health impact on the area. for what they consider to be And these facilities meet those acceptable risk levels. We went inside Covanta to learn more about their operation. Paul Gilman, head of sustainability, gave us a tour. Do you know what’s in that steam? Yes, and there are monitors at the top. So-called to look to see if there are
particulates there. So there is in the air that’s coming out from
that? It’s certain levels? I can’t say there is zero, but there is What I’m most concerned about is the
smallest particles, the PM2.5 because those are the ones that can
easily get into the lungs, and can get very deep into the
lungs, and can be readily So if they’re coated with carcinogens and with heavy metals, those can easily get in and those would certainly have
health effects. It is their health conditions with any single pollutant. It is my belief that it’s really the There is evidence that some of these toxins at levels from different sources can have an There have been literally hundreds of studies done of monitoring populations around these kinds of facilities. What the studies are concluding is they’re from facilities like this on people’s health, either in things like measuring pollutants in their bodies or looking at the health effects that might come from
it, disease and the like. We know that there are of particulate matter put into the air by that particular
plant and we know that there are lots of
other things put into the air by a number of other emitters. But we don’t really know exactly
what any is experiencing. This is Mother Morris. Mother Morris has lived in Chester
for decades. She’s one of many people here who say their Breathing all the time, this dirt and smoke. anywhere do you see this like this. to know that Mother Morris who has
worked all her life to have a decent place can’t live in peace because of the trucks, the dirt. She doesn’t know the science. She
don’t care about the science. Philadelphia says it plans to once they’re able to Do you understand why people are
upset that— Oh yeah. —that you’re sending plastics and recyclables to be burned? Oh, yes, we are sensitive to why people consider that as an issue. Was it a mistake? Was the decision a
mistake? Oh, what we’re doing? we’re in starts long before it ends up in a The fact is Americans throw away of plastic every year. But even before China changed its policy, of what we put into the blue bin was
actually recycled. From there, it can end up in the ocean. Rather than spending money in these
kind of short term Band-Aid solutions of burning the leftovers, we’ve got to work to reduce those leftovers and recycle what we can. Around the world, there are initiatives to tackle the such as 170 U.N. member countries pledging to by 2030. But these efforts could be for the people of Chester City and other low-income communities
across the country that have become What they do here Like I told you, create this issue. How dare people try to put Chester residents on the defense and try to defend our position. Our position is and always be we have the right to That is it.