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Re: Recycling vs Incineration - New Scientist 22/11/97

  cc: Jon Campbell
  >    Incineration is a hoax.
  >    When landfills began to fill up during the 70's
  >and 80's, and people were looking for alternatives,
  >the combustion and engineering companies took
  >advantage of people's lack of knowledge about
  >incineration technology:
  The characterization is false at best and much worse can be said regarding
  this summation of the beginning of the incineration of municipal waste.
  Without fanning flames too much, this paragraph is a rewrite of history, and
  a poor one.  When the idea of a controlled combustion of municipal waste was
  born, engineers and scientists were not trying to take advantage of anybody.
  Engineers looked at various aspects of much of the waste:  a) it was taking
  up space and smelled bad, hence leading to opposition, b) finding new sites
  was getting harder, c) the waste had a fuel value and could generate energy
  in its destruction, d) some was toxic (paints/pesticides, etc. - though much
  is no longer destined for muni incineration) or a threat - which could be
  destroyed by incineration, and c) the incineration would reduce much of the
  The plots were not evil - though in many cases they were not well thought
  out.  But at the time of inception, the ideas had merit  -> burn waste,
  substitute for fossil fuels, generate energy/money from its destruction,
  reduce landfill, reduce some toxics.    I agree with much of your
  characterization of how the original start up of this technology impacted
  the environment, but the rewrite of history is uncalled for and detracts
  from the overall objective of cleaning up the environment.  Just as CFCs
  were found to be a problem, so is the uncontrolled combustion of municipal
  waste.  We didn't have to go back and declare those who discovered uses for
  freon evil - we just needed to prevent CFCs from getting into the
  atmosphere.  In this case, we should be looking at those ways to REDUCE our
  waste (recycling is only a partial answer and also creates waste).  In those
  cases were waste incineration makes "sense" (obviously room for debate in
  that sense), e.g. land is at a premium in industrial settings - Japan,
  Korea, Taiwan, whatever, then appropriate controls have to be implemented.
  That is the case presently and is reflected in a) increased govt
  regulations, even in developing countries, and b) study after study
  reflecting a decrease dioxin/metal emissions.
  Some of your other comments were misleading:  "Up to one-third of the
  original weight and volume
  of waste is left behind as toxic ash, which must be landfilled."  I could
  have easily said that up to 95% of the volume is reduced - equally correct
  and equally misleading.  For the most part, a lot of your comments were on
  target - the "distractions" were not necessary and could have been used a
  *fuel*  to detract from the central point of debate.
  Sam McClintock