GAIA Zero Waste MasterPlan - Page 91



Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) 91
©Breathe Free Detroit
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY CONTROL
A just transition to zero waste prioritizes
the places where inequality has been most
pervasive, redistributing power and resources
so that communities have the authority to make
autonomous decisions, meet their own needs,
and model system change on a local level.
A holistic, grassroots-led approach to zero
waste can address multiple local issues and
leave communities stronger.
CASE ST UDY
COMBATING ENVIRONMENTAL
GENTRIFICATION IN DETROIT
Successful environmental justice campaigns
can have the unintended consequence of
making neighborhoods long perceived as
“undesirable” more attractive to development,
driving up real estate prices and the cost
of living, resulting in the displacement of
working class residents. This phenomenon
of “environmental gentrification” means zero
waste plans can be a double-edged sword for
communities, unless paired with comprehensive
anti-displacement efforts.
Detroit’s incinerator caused some of the
worst environmental injustices in the city: for
decades, mostly low-income residents near the
facility breathed in toxic emissions from burning
trash that mostly came from wealthy, whiter
suburban neighborhoods. However, the Breathe
Free Detroit Campaign generated public
pressure around the incinerator’s hundreds of
emissions and odor violations, and in 2019, the
incinerator’s parent company closed the facility.
Although successful in shutting down the
incinerator, this grassroots campaign opened
the doors to redevelopment. Investors had

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