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Closing A Toxic Industrial Waste Loophole

Old tires, stocked for recycling.

Tires contain noxious substances, like sulfur, lead and chlorine-containing compounds that can form dioxins when burned.

Budimir Jevtic / Shutterstock

What’s at Stake

The Obama EPA has unleashed a public health threat of epic proportions by classifying the burning of industrial waste as a form of “recycling.” Earthjustice is representing grassroots groups in a lawsuit that seeks to close this egregious air pollution loophole.


Power plants, chemical factories, oil refineries and similar dirty industries generate huge amounts of dangerous garbage: used chemical solvents, waste oil and a wide variety of other industrial sludge. It costs money to legally dispose of such nasty substances—dirty industries have it, but they don’t want to spend it.

As an alternative to legal disposal, these industries have for years implored the government to let them burn these wastes as fuel for their operations—similar to coal or oil, but far dirtier and generating more dangerous emissions for workers and residents who live nearby. Incredibly, the Obama administration acquiesced and classified such burning as a form of “recycling,” allowing these facilities to burn their garbage without facing the stringent air pollution controls typically placed on facilities that burn industrial waste. In addition, the Obama EPA green lighted burning of whole tires, asphalt and chemically treated wood waste at these facilities, further jeopardizing public health and well being.

Earthjustice is representing a coalition of community groups in a lawsuit that seeks to close this egregious and outrageous legal loophole.

Case ID



Huron Environmental Activist League (HEAL)

Case Updates

June 16, 2011 | Article

Pushing Pyromania

Not all burning is bad. For example, campfires rule—when they are done sensitively. I don't mean with tenderness, but rather with attention paid to the ecosystem and the importance of the fallen wood within it. Those fires bring light, heat and comfort to our small corners of the wild.