Recycling is the vision, not garbage incineration

Waste Incinerators are Not "Green" Technology

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that the Greenhouse Gas emissions associated with burning municipal waste are greater than coal.

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A report done on the life cycle assessment of different waste management strategies by Dr. Jeff Morris concluded that composting and recycling offered the lowest environmental impact.

European Commission study on climate change impacts of municipal solid waste options came to a similar conclusion that recycling and composting were preferable and that landfills were preferable to incineration.

This study also showed that energy is wasted when materials are incinerated as new materials are then required to be produced to replace them, instead of using those materials again through recycling or composting. Instead of waste to energy, it is a waste of energy to incinerate mixed municipal waste.

Even worse is that incineration competes with recycling so communities that choose incineration end up with less recycling than they could have had.

While some sources seek to reassure the public that “new” incinerators will be “state-of-the-art”, this merely repeats the historical pattern of promises to the public on safety, building incinerators that are state-of-the-art for their time, discovering pollution problems once they are built and then closing them down or adding costly retrofits. The Burnaby Incinerator was state of the art in its time too and yet more than its original cost has been spent since it was built trying to reduce the pollution.

This article in the Watershed Sentinel points out some concerns with air pollution monitoring and the expectation that better monitoring will reveal the need to do more to reduce pollution (not add to it).

Watershed Sentinel article highlights the inability of one incineration company to meet its claims of low pollution at its test facility in Ottawa. Aside from pollution, another concern is the contract with the City of Ottawa where the city gets financial incentives when they convince other cities to buy the technology, making it harder for citizens to know who speaks the truth and who is merely a salesperson trying to get a commission.

Also, incineration is not better than landfilling with good gas capture and certainly not better than Material Recovery and Biological Treatment. This new study by Dr. Enzo Favoino, Dr. Jeff Morris and Eric Lombardi does the life cycle analysis.

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