[Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of Energy

elitalking elitalking at rockbridge.net
Sat Dec 3 06:18:56 PST 2011


Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of EnergyIn Rockbridge County, Virginia we have been looking at this issue because we have a waste energy plant proposal for consideration.  It is less wasteful than a land fill.  However, that is an extreme low standard.  I am a passionate advocate for zero waste.  This company tries to claim this title by reducing the volume of waste to ash and some emissions.  If those were the only two choices, let incinerate.  However, this system depends on the generation of waste and it destroys any future resource value for that material.  When peak oil, peak copper, peak bauxite, finally kicks in, we will want the material that is being destroyed by landfill or incineration.  I have read that it takes 3.5kwh of energy to replace the resource value as recycle feed stock for the amount of paper needed to generate 1kwh of electricity.  Therefore, destroying the paper is a net loss of 2.5kwh of electricity.  It would be 3.5kwh is landfilled.  Now, paper, a wood product is renewable.  However the common energy sources used to make the paper are not renewable.  The worse aspect of waste to energy is destroying the minerals and chemicals in our other products that should be recycled in an enlightened society.  I am an advocate for "pay as you throw" where consumer pay for the actual cost of responsibly managing waste.  I also advocate for "extended producer responsibility" where products are returned to the retailer or producer to manage.  That is where real substantive, nuance recovery can take place when the producer is financially responsible for cost of managing waste.  Then the business plans and product designers will get with the program of achieving high recovery because that will be the most cost affective way to manage the waste.  

 

Eli 

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jason Holstine 
  To: Greenbuilding Listserv ; 'Reuben Demling' ; 'Gennaro Brooks-Church' 
  Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 10:57 PM
  Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of Energy


  Here in Montgomery County, Maryland, a power plant was converted from coal to (domestic) waste incineration. I can't see any argument that this is not an improvement in all considerations. I formerly served on a local air quality advisory board and we were briefed on the plant's performance, including emissions and output. The level of pollution reduction was impressive-capturing mercury, particulate matter, the usual NOx and SOx, but also various chemicals that would otherwise come from burning those various products.

  It's also worth noting that the county (with a population of 1 million) has high recycling goals and rates (at least for the US)--they are a few points away from the goal of achieving 50% residential recycling rates of plastics, metals and paper. So, it's not like they are burning in lieu of recycling; the active goal is both, and landfill rates are very low.

  Now, arguing that incineration should be classified as a renewable-especially on par with wind, solar, etc.--is laughable. But it's a political reality.

  In the end, this is a case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And in no way should it be deemed unfeasible for much of NA.



  On 11/29/11 10:12 PM, "John Salmen" <terrain at shaw.ca> wrote:


    I may be coming in to this late as I have been offline. Europe does burn waste for fuel to a greater degree than N.A. The waste that is burned is generally classed as 'nonrecyclable' or probably more realistically as 'uneconomical' and conversion of that waste to fuel is considered better and more controllable than what we currently do with 'nonrecyclable' which is landfill.  Landfill is a north American real estate thing so essentially is fought over by small communities who want the cash and are willing to devote some chunk of real estate to it. As to whether preserving it as landfill or utilizing it as energy is better or worse is I think the basic question. We don't consider landfill as preservation at this point but environmental standards do require isolation from any potential for contamination so it works as a form of preservation (as to how well it is done is another question).
     
    I am a bit mixed on the issue as I really don't think we are capable of making good decisions about waste resources - and they are resources. If burning for energy was a net zero equation it would make sense but it can't be as we lose too much energy in the production of waste to recoup it. The scarcity of resources represented by our waste may however in the future represent some gain and how we preserve that waste is I think probably more important to me than how we 'dispose' of it.
     
    I am confused as to why you mention burning in the USA as 'unfeasible'. Is it because recycling has not yet claimed the bulk of the waste and burning would divert too much of a recyclable stream?
     
    John
     
     
     
     
     

    From: greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org [mailto:greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of Erin Rasmussen
    Sent: November-29-11 3:12 PM
    To: 'Green Building'; 'Reuben Demling'; 'Gennaro Brooks-Church'
    Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of Energy

    With respect to burning waste to generate power, it's a lot smarter to say that it depends a lot on the waste being incinerated, and the way that it is being done.  In general burning municipal waste is in the USA unfeasible, but there are fuels like waste wood and non-recyclable waste paper that can be burned cleanly to generate electricity.  And like people using wood to heat their homes in efficient wood stoves, there are ways to burn clean wastes (wood, some types of crop residues, waste paper) on a municipal scale and there are places in Europe where they have several years experience doing just that under much tougher environmental rules than we have here. 
     
    For some examples check out the Gasification Discussion List, and its web site: 
    http://gasifiers.bioenergylists.org/
     
    Cheers,
    Erin Rasmussen
    BioEnergy Discussion List
    erin at trmiles.com
     
     

    From: greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org [mailto:greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of Carmine Vasile
    Sent: Monday, November 21, 2011 4:27 PM
    To: Reuben Demling; Gennaro Brooks-Church
    Cc: GB Forum
    Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of Energy


    Reuben & Gennaro: Here's another Green Myth: Incinerators that generate power by burning trash should be eligible for state renewable energy subsidies. See Comment #1 below Re: "State PSC delays vote on incinerators", By JENNIFER SMITH (Newsday, 11/18/11):

      a.. Had Jennifer Smith and commission members wanting to know more before deciding Googled "Title V air permit covanta northport" they would have found plenty of reasons to support the staff recommendations to reject Covanta's petition -- like the GreenAction Fact Sheet @ http://greenaction.org/stanislaus/covantafactsheet.shtml <http://greenaction.org/stanislaus/covantafactsheet.shtml> , which states: The Covanta Waste-to-Energy Garbage Incinerator in Crow's Landing Pollutes Our Air! Stop Toxic Pollution from the Covanta Garbage Incinerator in Crow's Landing!

    Carmine

    gfxtechnology.com




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