2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner’s story has major parallels with incineration battles across New England


Sylvia Broude, Toxics Action Center, 617-747-4407, sylvia@toxicsaction.org

Greg Sawtell, 513-638-7107, United Workers, greggalen@gmail.com

Ahmina Maxey, 510-463-1308, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, ahmina@no-burn.org

2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner’s story has major parallels with incineration battles across New England

Boston, MA--Destiny Watford is one of six activists honored today with the Goldman Environmental Prize at a ceremony in the San Francisco Opera House. “In a community whose environmental rights had long been sidelined to make room for heavy industry, Destiny Watford inspired residents of Curtis Bay, Baltimore to defeat plans to build the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from her high school,” stated the prize announcement. Destiny achieved this with many others in her student group Free Your Voice, the human rights Committee of United Workers.

"I am proud to serve as a representative of Free Your Voice, my city, and state as we continue to build a movement to change our city and nation towards environmental justice, truly green living-wage jobs, and affordable housing, to ensure that our basic human rights to live in a healthy, sustainable community are met,” said Destiny.

Destiny’s experience in Baltimore is sadly familiar to residents of many New England communities. Toxics Action Center, a public health and environmental nonprofit, has helped local leaders in towns from Biddeford, ME to Claremont, NH to Hartford, CT to organize to close incinerators and halt siting proposals in their communities. “We’ve witnessed the effects waste incinerators firsthand,” says Sylvia Broude, Toxics Action Center’s Executive Director, “and they’re very painful.” Incinerators emit toxic chemicals and contribute to asthma and other health problems. They also often leave neighbors dealing with depressed property values, increased traffic, and odors. “All too often, these facilities are sited in marginalized communities that already face environmental burdens” Broude says, “and to add insult to injury, the trash required to feed incinerators has real economic value. States should be capturing that value through more effective reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts – not burning it.”

“Decades ago, when the tide starting turning against incineration in the U.S, and coal and oil were getting a bad rap, trash burning companies rebranded themselves as “waste-to-energy,” claiming that they can renewably produce energy from waste. But burning trash is a climate disaster, emitting high levels of greenhouse gases alongside toxic pollution ,” explained Ahmina Maxey of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), of which United Workers is a member. “All across the country, companies like Energy Answers are spewing toxic pollution into communities under the guise of producing clean energy. Free Your Voice blew the whistle on this lie, and their story highlights the need to end renewable energy classification for trash incineration in state and national policies.” 

In the United States state and national waste and climate policies like the Clean Power Plan and the Non-Hazardous Secondary Material Rule classify trash burning as renewable energy renewable energy.  This allows Energy Answers, and other trash burning companies like Covanta and Wheelabrator, to qualify for climate subsidies, meant for clean energy like wind and solar power. These subsidies present an enormous challenge to communities, often offsetting the high costs of building an incinerator and keeping polluting facilities alive all over the country. As the Clean Power Plan describes, incinerators compete with zero waste initiatives like waste prevention, reuse, composting, and recycling.

ATTENTION EDITORS: Detailed biographical information, photographs, and broadcast-quality video of Destiny Watford and all of 2016 Goldman Prize winners are available by request or online at www.goldmanprize.org/pressroom

About the Goldman Environmental Prize: The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals. For additional information about the Prize and previous winners visit www.goldmanprize.org.

About United Workers and Free Your Voice: Free Your Voice is a group of students and community members in the Curtis Bay and Brooklyn neighborhoods of Baltimore joining together to expand participation and equity for ourselves, our families and our communities. Free Your Voice is a human rights committee of United Workers.

About Toxics Action Center: Since 1987, Toxics Action Center organizers have worked side by side with more than 750 communities across New England to clean up hazardous waste sites, reduce industrial pollution, curb pesticide use, ensure healthy land use, replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives, and oppose dangerous waste, energy, and industrial facilities. We work on issues where environmental pollution threatens our health. 

About the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives: GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.