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

  Sam wrote
  >The plots were not evil - though in many cases they were not well thought
  >out.  ........ 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).
  This seems a particularly charitable approach towards a group of people 
  and corporations who have managed to poison our planet with dioxins to 
  the extent that all of us are at or close to levels in our bodies that 
  are of clinical significance.
  Maybe I should be more generous spirited but I am really not sure that I 
  can sympathise with that view. Particularly since 1978 when it was 
  recognised that:
  1) Kociba et al confirmed that dioxin causes cancer
  2) It was discovered that trash incinerators were potent sources of dioxin
  3) Dow Chemical started to obscure the issues with their 'Trace Chemistry 
  of Fire'
  Since then there are few, if any, in the incineration industry (or 
  amongst their regulators) who can put their put hands on their heart and 
  say that 'we did all we could to protect the public - that was the most 
  important issue for us'.  Others have effectively documented the abuses 
  of power and the spread of disinformation that were used to defend 
  incineration and allow the poisoning to continue. But what Jon says is 
  substantially true - the incineration industry realised that if the 
  public connected dioxin with incineration then the game would be up. The 
  regulators, in the UK at least, played along and allowed some incredibly 
  polluting plant to splutter on until the end of their economic lives - 
  sometimes even against the advice of other Government Agencies.    These 
  issues are way too serious to pass by and simply move onto looking at 
  waste reduction - vital as that is.  
  We need to learn from the mistakes of the past for if we accept that this 
  sort of disaster is an acceptable cost of doing business then surely we 
  are doomed.
  Perhaps the basic dilemma that I face with Sam's philosophy that 
  'basically everybody was doing their job albeit sometimes not quite as 
  thoughtfully as they might' is that it is fundamentally pessimistic.  
  At every new application we hear that the past has been put behind us, we 
  have learned from our mistakes and this an entirely different technology, 
  incinerator design, scrubber, liner, process etc All too often these 
  prove to be hollow promises - how how many chances do they need?  What 
  reason, or evidence, is there for anything ever to get significantly 
  better?  And if it doesn't then where do we all stand?
  Experience in industry tells me that too often people act recklessly or 
  abuse the environment because:
  1) they think that they can get away with it
  2) they know that if they don't it won't be much trouble
  3) they rationalise that what they are doing won't really damage the 
  4) sometimes they just don't care anyway
  The results of this include ghost waste handling in inappropriate 
  facilities (ie haz waste disposal in MSW incinerators), fiddling 
  emissions data, rigging tests, switching off ESPs at night to save 
  electricity and so on.  
  All these issues apart from perhaps (4) can be addressed by tough 
  regulation, treating crimes against the environment as seriously as any 
  other crime and, just to be sure, eliminating particularly hazardous 
  components at source because even in a brave new world the regulators 
  and/or the educated are never going to be omnipresent.  
  Surely this is part of the lesson we should learn from the incineration 
         _\\|//_                Alan Watson C.Eng                  
        (' O^O ')               Oakleigh                      
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