Is Waste to Energy Incineration a Viable Option

Waste incineration has been around for a long time.  From the time that humans first discovered fire, people have tended to burn what was not needed.  During the 20th century, people began to understand that they could in effect kill two birds with one stone.  People could rely on waste incineration as a means of disposing of refuse they did not need, rather than creating larger landfills, and they could also use the process of incineration itself to create energy.

Over the past twenty years or so, more communities have opted for some sort of use of waste incineration as a means of producing energy while also disposing of unwanted waste products.  Essentially, there are two methods that are commonly used today to achieve these twin goals.

First, there is the method commonly referred to as mass burn method.  With mass burn waste facilities everything is tossed into one boiler.  There is no attempt to sort through the waste and remove any items that are noncombustible.  This eclectic combination of waste will burn at temperatures in excess of fifteen hundred degrees.  It is estimated that the mass burn method of waste incineration currently accounts for the elimination of roughly five hundred tons of waste per day.

Next, there is the Refuse-derived method of waste incineration.  With this method, there is some sorting to be done.  Glass and other items that are good candidates for recycling are removed from the bank of solid waste.  Everything else that remains is loaded into a boiler and then pretty much processed in the same manner as with the mass burn method.  The advantage to the refuse-derived method is that you do not destroy elements that can be recycled for use in some new form.  However, it must be noted that critics argue that the refuse-derived method is much more costly to utilize and in fact may not offset the costs and energy needed to produce new goods to replace those that would otherwise be consumed.  In short, while the idea is a good one, it may not really help the environment in the long run.

Another objection to waste incineration in general has been the impact of all this burning on the quality of the air we breathe.  Detractors point to the fact that all sorts of contaminants can be released into our atmosphere, such as dioxins.  According to this point of view, the potential dangers to our environment outweigh any energy production that results from the use of waste incineration.

Waste to Energy Incineration

Maishima Waste Treatment Center in Osaka uses Heat for Power Generation.

While it is true that early to mid 20th century waste incinerators did not use much in the way of filters to protect the environment, the units in use for the last twenty five years are so protect us from this sort of problem.  These days, waste incinerators do not dump dioxins into the air in record amounts, because the filtering process is so effective.  Thus, waste incinerators pose no significant threat to the environment and have the twin advantages of preventing useful acreage from being converted into landfills as well as converting our trash into energy.

Waste incinerators help you to accomplish two things.  First, there is the time-honored advantage of getting rid of that, which is no longer needed.  Then there is the fact that waste incineration produces energy that can be used in order to keep our homes and businesses going, without creating additional stress on our more conventional modes of generating power.  As a result of these two very good reasons, you can look forward to the creation of more waste incineration facilities in the decades to come.

Page Updated: February 18, 2017
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