The Combustion of Justice: The Placement of Landfills and Trash Incinerators in Underrepresented Communities in the U.S

Mo Pulte and Mariam Traore

Landfill vs. trash incinerator

Waste disposal is common in lower income neighborhoods located in the United States. The idea that people of these underrepresented groups will not be affected or fight against it, pushes the head of companies to dispose of their trash in a “convenient” area. Those living within these communities do not have the financial and political resources to prevent the installation of waste disposal sites, such as trash incinerators and landfills.

Two cases studies, the Campo Landfill and the Old Smokey incinerator, will be examined to better understand the environmental and social impacts that living near landfills and trash incinerators have on community members. The Native American Tribe of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego, California established a landfill on their reservation, which works with a recycling company that manages their waste and day-to-day activities. Additionally, the Campo Kumeyaay Nation prevents hazardous waste from entering their landfill (“Campo Landfill”). The majority Black/African-American residents in Miami, Florida, who lived near the Old Smokey incinerator complained about unsafe environmental conditions for years. A lawsuit was filed to shut down the incinerator that was in operation for 44 years. Now the solution is in the hands of the city government more than the local residents (Old Smokey).

These issues faced by lower-income communities are not present within wealthier areas, where people have the political and financial backing to keep their neighborhoods clean and environmentally friendly. By examining the Campo Landfill and the Old Smokey incinerator case studies, a connection can be made between the health, political, and economic issues suffered by these lower income, minority communities, as they are related to the establishment of hazardous waste disposal sites and demonstrate issues of environmental racism and environmental injustices.

Key Words: environmental racism, slow violence 

Table of Contents:

Environmental Justice 

Environmental Racism in the U.S

Case Studies: Campo Nation Landfill and Old Smokey Incinerator

Environmental Injustice: Moving Towards Justice and Possible Solutions

What’s Next?

Works Cited:

“Campo Landfill.” Campo Kumeyaay Nation. 2013. 

Old Smokey Steering Committee. Old Smokey. Old Smokey, Accessed 9 April 2019.