Proponents call them Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facilities, detractors call them Incinerators. The NY Times article, “Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags,” details why Europe has embraced the waste-to-energy concept, and what we need to know about building them in America, and more specifically, Long Island.
The waste-to-energy plants in Europe meets the threshold question of primary pollutants by strictly controlling pollutants with various filtering mechanisms. The result are facilities so clean that they emit less pollutants, such as dioxin, than backyard barbecues or fireplaces. In addition, waste-to-energy facilities have significantly less impact on global warming than state of the art landfills that collect and utilize methane gas, while waste-to-energy facilities produce nine times as much energy as the best landfill operations.
The US has lagged in implementing waste-to-energy facilities, not because of technical issues, but for other reasons. Currently, landfills in the USA are very abundant and out of sight in such places as Pennsylvania, so garbage can be shipped out and forgotten about. State and local officials are reluctant to be supportive of new waste-to-energy facilities because they could disrupt recycling plans, and most importantly, residents do not want one in their backyard, or in Long Island’s case, in their Town or County.
Long Islanders are faced with the potential of a new facility to process household waste, this time in the Town of Freeport. Hopefully we can get past labels and debate the issues without the name calling and divisive tactics which unfortunately became the norm for contentious issues during the health care debates.
Pieces like this NY Times report provide valuable information which will be used to inform the discussion and increase the understanding of the debate. “Think globally but act locally”. In this case if we help ensure that state of the art technologies are used we can have it both ways, a win-win for both local and global pollution.
Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL – Published: April 12, 2010
HORSHOLM, Denmark — The lawyers and engineers who dwell in an elegant enclave here are at peace with the hulking neighbor just over the back fence: a vast energy plant that burns thousands of tons of household garbage and industrial waste, round the clock.
Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.
Continue reading @ The NY Times.