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

Tim Vireo Keating t.keating at rainforestrelief.org
Wed Dec 7 18:40:52 PST 2011


While I would admit that there is a (very small) place for burning 
waste, I believe the 'places' you have mentioned are not them.

First, there is truly very little "non-recyclable" waste paper 
generated in the US. I can vouch for just what I put into my 
mixed-paper bin, knowing that it's heading to Marcal in norther NJ to 
be made into napkins, toilet paper and paper towels. Having toured 
the plant, I can tell you that there's almost nothing I generate that 
can't be recycled there. Those few things include my own used toilet 
paper (sent to the sewer treatment plant and likely ending up as 
sludge or in solution), a few used napkins (which I've gleaned from 
others - I don't use paper napkins myself and actually collect the 
unused ones off of restaurant tables and recycle them) and some 
stickers that are stuck to some plastic labeling that I place into my 
plastic bag recycling. Otherwise, what might one consider as 
"non-recyclable" paper?? Certainly nothing that would, if we all 
recycled to this degree, be seen as interesting to an incinerator.

Then, there's wood waste. I can tell you that the only thing that 
makes sense is wood waste that might make any sense to burn would be 
wood with paint or varnish of some kind on it or wood that has been 
engineered with some type of glue. All 'clean' wood could be chipped 
and used in compost or mulch, returned to the soil, which is a much 
better use than burning it. And as for the wood with the chemical 
compounds, bear in mind that burning it means that this stuff likely 
enters our atmosphere, to eventually be breathed in by us and other 
air-breathing organisms with whom we share this place.

IMHO, incinerators simply make no sense. For the billions it takes to 
build one, we could more effectively and more cheaply educate the 
local population to source separate, create municipal collection that 
would allow for recycling of multiple streams, etc. In the long run, 
this would reduce waste, reduce new extraction, increase recovery and 
give people a sense of where there stuff comes from and where it goes.

Also the billions spent on incinerators (promoted by GE and others) 
would go a long way towards weatherizing existing homes in these 
locales to reduce energy consumption - the phoney reason for which 
these facilities are built (in actuality, they're built to make the 
companies lots and lots of money on contracts with counties).

tim keating

At 3:12 PM -0800 11/29/11, Erin Rasmussen wrote:
>Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
>	boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0011_01CCAEA9.44ED9A30"
>Content-Language: en-us
>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 
>For some examples check out the Gasification Discussion List, and 
>its web site:
>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):
>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!
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