Environmentalists are calling for a boycott of a Maryland beach town until it starts sending its waste to a local landfill instead of a majority-Black town in Pennsylvania.
The trash from Ocean City is being shipped to Chester, Pennsylvania, a majority Black town 130 miles to the north, The Baltimore Sun reported. Ocean City stopped recycling in 2010 and chose instead to burn trash to create energy.
But incinerators like the one in Chester, and those in Baltimore, are coming under criticism for the pollution it creates.
Environmentalists say the trash-burning operation just adds to the environmental and socioeconomic woes besetting Chester, a majority-Black community.
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Ocean City’s contract with the Chester incinerator, operated by waste management company Covanta, expires at the end of December, and environmental groups hope the town will not renew it.
“Why should 33,000 people bear the brunt of other communities’ comfort?” said Zulene Mayfield, founder of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living. “Right now, it’s comfortable for Ocean City to send it to Chester.”
A new contract with higher prices for Ocean City is likely to be signed in July, Diana Chavis, Ocean City city clerk, said.
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“I feel like it is recycling and it’s producing energy,” Chavis said. “I’ve been to the landfill and I see what it looks like — and I’d rather not have that.”
Environmental groups argue the energy generation is less efficient and more polluting than other energy sources, even coal. At the end, the ash heads for landfills anyway.
And incinerator emissions, which can exacerbate asthma and other health conditions, cause unique harm for the neighborhoods where they are located.
In the case of Ocean City, activists are promoting the use of the Worcester County landfill, which offers a rebate for recyclables.
In a recent month, the county charged localities like Snow Hill and Berlin an average of $71.54 per ton to landfill their trash.
Meanwhile, Ocean City is in talks to pay Covanta $88 per ton to haul its garbage from the 65th Street transfer station up to Chester, according to emails obtained through a public information request by The Energy Justice Network and The Baltimore Sun.
In Baltimore, activists dismayed by the city’s decision last year to sign another 10-year contract with its own incinerator, the Wheelabrator plant in Curtis Bay, are taking a similar approach, which they’ve dubbed “starving the beast,” said Shashawnda Campbell, member of the South Baltimore Community Land Trust.
Campbell said she’s continued to fight for environmental solutions in part because she knows what it’s like to live in a community like Chester. She recalled walking into a classroom at her former high school, and watching most of the children raise their hands when asked who was suffering from asthma.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “all of these communities have to stand together.”