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Re: Recycling vs Incineration - New Scientist 22/11/97
1. The amount of ash produced by incineration is a matter of public
record. It is about 1/3 of the original weight and volume. Check out the ash
disposal records of any MSW incinerator (it may be as high as 40%, and as
low as 30%).
2. Check out the history of many or most of the incinerator contracts
written in the United States. Especially look at those written for/by
The NESWC contract, for instance, specifies that Wheelabrator owns the
incinerator, but the towns have paid for the (municipal) bonds for it.
Guaranteed Annual Tonnage contracts guarantee that the towns will not
increase their recycling rate (the towns pay a fixed cost no matter how much
trash is delivered). Modifications for changes in law are all borne by the
towns. All liability for environmental mishaps and for the ash is borne by
the towns. Audit records for the building of the incinerator (which
allegedly cost $200 million) have never been provided. Inspections of the
plant by the towns are all but prohibited.
Wheelabrator and the other vendors knew about the ash issue (weight and
volume) and the toxicity of the ash well before most of them were built.
There is some evidence that they knew about dioxin air emissions as well.
I am not rewriting history. I am merely reinterpreting what really
happened to us, which is that many municipal governments were taken to the
cleaners and now have a toxic nightmare on their hands.
From: Sam McClintock <email@example.com>
To: Multiple recipients of list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, November 28, 1997 12:41 PM
Subject: 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
>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,
>a poor one. When the idea of a controlled combustion of municipal waste
>born, engineers and scientists were not trying to take advantage of
>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
>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
>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.