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Hennepin Co. trash incinerator needs to be shut down by next year, environmental activists say

Environmental groups call on officials to close down Henn. Co. trash burner
Environmental groups call on officials to close down Henn. Co. trash burner 02:28

MINNEAPOLIS — Activists are continuing a call for Hennepin County's trash incinerator to close as soon as next year, far in advance of the planned timeline for the facility.

The garbage burner near Target Field has been running since 1989, and about 40% of all the county's trash goes there. Months ago, county leaders announced plans to shut down the burner, as new state law doesn't recognize it as renewable energy.

Both county officials and the activists are in agreement that the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) should close; the clash stems from the timeline and what's feasible.

The environmental activists who spoke with WCCO this week say there's no reason there should be a delay until 2028, and are pushing for next year as a stop date. But the county has laid out a detailed plan to its commissioners, saying it'll take at least four years to get to the point where the HERC stops burning trash.

The county says it first has to notify all the vendors the HERC works with in order to figure out where the trash will go instead and to also work out a plan to redevelop the site. 

Environmental activists counter that now is the time to act.

"We must stop this waste. We must stop it now," Nazir Khan, Minnesota Environmental Justice Table co-founder and Zero Burn Coalition organizer, said. "We can not wait until 2040. We must act now."

Additionally, much of the county's plan is focused on first becoming zero waste through expansive legislation and expanded programs. Khan says instead of waiting until zero waste initiatives are met to close the HERC, the county should first close the facility and then focus on meeting the goals.

"Hennepin County is pursuing a zero-waste future to accelerate the closure and repurposing of HERC," said Assistant County Administrator Lisa Cerney. "Some of the first actions include working with legislators and zero-waste advocates to pursue the critical actions from the state legislature to accomplish the 12 most impactful zero-waste actions laid out in our plan to reinvent our solid waste system. We will track progress with the recently established legislative checklist and zero-waste dashboard, the county has defined as the metrics necessary to meet to close HERC responsibly. We are excited about what we can accomplish together."

The county released its comprehensive plan for closing the HERC during a meeting late in January. It can be viewed in its entirety below:

The "People's Plan" released Wednesday by the Zero Burn Coalition can be viewed in its entirety as well, below:

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