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HERC & the waste crisis

HERC is a giant 3-stack trash incinerator owned by Hennepin County and located near Minneapolis’ Target Field between Downtown and North Minneapolis.


It has burned 1,000 tons of trash almost every day since it was built in 1989.


This trash incineration emits health-damaging air pollutants in the middle of a dense, urban community. The population within a 3-mile radius has a higher concentration of low-income households than 89 percent of the state, and higher percentage of people of color than 90 percent of the state.

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Why was the HERC built in an overburdened community?

Despite intense opposition, HERC was built in an overburdened community with the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the state and a history of segregation. Wealthy communities did not allow HERC to be built in their vicinity. Incinerators have a life expectancy of 30 years, and the county stated at the time that HERC would be shut down in 20 years.

How does the HERC affect our air?

HERC is one of the biggest producers of air toxin emissions in the county, and ranks as one of the top emitters for almost all criteria pollutants identified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

  • #1 emitter of nitrogen oxides

  • #2 emitter of sulfur dioxide

  • #2 emitter of PM2.5

  • #3 emitter of lead

  • #4 emitter of PM10

  • #6 emitter of carbon monoxide

HERC emitted 51.89% of dioxins in the entire state in 2002. Dioxins come from burning plastic and are considered one of the most toxic compounds to human

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health. There has been a massive increase in plastic waste since 2002, and a GAIA report in 2021 showed that only 11.1% of all plastic is actually recycled in Minneapolis. Much of the rest is burned at HERC.

According to a PSE analysis, the top five polluting facilities in Hennepin County are: HERC, NRG Energy Center Minneapolis, Tiller Corp asphalt processing facility, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and Xcel Energy Riverside Generating Plant.


Together, these facilities emitted over 1.6 million pounds of nitrogen oxides and tens of thousands of pounds of sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in 2021, which represents over 50 percent of NOx emissions and nearly 40 percent of SO2 emissions from all facilities in the county. All of these pollutants can impact cardiovascular and respiratory health, contribute to premature deaths, and cause other adverse health outcomes.

HERC is the most impactful facility in Hennepin County, contributing roughly $16 million in health damages, and an estimated 1-2 deaths annually due to air pollution.

Campaign Goals

  1. Shut down HERC as soon as possible. 

  2. Ensure frontline community members determine what comes after HERC and are provided restitution

  3. Implement a comprehensive zero waste plan in Hennepin County to eliminate trash incineration and minimize landfilling

  4. Address the root cause of the waste crisis: waste colonialism 

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