Burning plastic recyclables

Since China has stopped accepting America's plastic recyclables, one solution to dealing with the excess material has been to burn it in already-existing trash incinerators.

Listen 49:00
Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Guests: Jenna Jambeck, Zulene Mayfield, Marilyn Howarth, Paul Gilman

China is no longer accepting America’s recyclable plastic and it’s having an effect on our recycling and trash procedures – some of which could be dire. In Chester, one of Pennsylvania’s poorest cities, a trash incinerator has begun to burn the excess plastic. There are concerns in the community that this could lead to health problems due to the incinerator’s emissions. Today, we’ll begin by talking about the environmental consequences of China’s decision to refuse America’s plastic with JENNA JAMBECK, environmental engineering professor at University of Georgia. Then, we’ll talk with Chester resident and activist ZULENE MAYFIELD and University of Pennsylvania public health expert MARILYN HOWARTH, about the plant in Chester and the concerns about burning plastic. We’ll also be joined by PAUL GILMAN, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer from Covanta, the company that operates the incinerator in Chester.

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