Incinerators and Waste Reduction Strategies: A Scientific Approach

Over 80 million tons of waste are currently burned in Europe. Many Member States are seeking quick solutions and investing large amounts of money into waste-burning facilities. The EU is pushing for landfills to be phased out. Incineration of waste is often portrayed as an intelligent way to solve our trash problems and create energy with incinerator supplier. Research shows this to be far from true. Here are nine reasons why burning waste to generate energy is a bad idea.

Municipal waste is made up of materials such as paper, plastics and glass. More than 90 per cent of materials that end up in landfills and incineration plants could be composted or recycled. The burning of these valuable materials to produce electricity is a way to discourage efforts to conserve resources and encourage waste generation.

As a rule, countries that promote waste burning have lower recycling rates. This trend is visible in the data on household waste collected in Denmark. The regions with high incineration rates recycle less, and vice versa. Incinerators use a lot of materials that could be reused to generate a small amount of energy. Recycling and composting, on the other hand, can save as much as five times the energy produced by burning waste. The amount of energy that is wasted by the US in not recycling aluminium cans and steel cans as well as paper, printed material, glass, and plastic is equivalent to the output of 15 medium-sized power plants.

Infinite natural processes. It is not sourced from infinite resources like forests, minerals and fossil fuels, which are being cut down at a rate that cannot be sustained. Subsidies for incineration would be better spent on environmentally friendly, energy-saving practices such as recycling and composting. Recycling is better than incineration for four reasons.

The environment and citizens’ health are at risk when waste is burned. Even the most advanced technology cannot prevent the release of large amounts of pollutants into the air, water and soil that end up in the food chain. Incinerators emit carcinogenic pollutants and tiny dust particles that can cause lung damage, heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, and premature deaths.

Denmark, the poster child of Europe’s waste incineration industry discovered recently that its incinerators released twice as much CO2 than initially estimated. This led to the country missing its Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas reduction targets. A study conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency found that Zero Waste strategies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US by up to 42 percent.

Incinerators generate the most energy and handle waste. They also create a heavy economic burden on host cities. Amager Bakke, the infamous incinerator of Copenhagen, is one example.

Many municipalities have been forced into debt due to incinerators. Others are bound to long-term contracts that require them to produce a minimum amount of waste over 20-30 years to pay back investment costs. In 2011, the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, became the largest US bankruptcy due to the financial costs associated with upgrading its incinerator.

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