British Research Concludes that Waste-to-Energy Does Not Pose Risk to Health

Modern, well-run and regulated waste-to-energy facilities do not pose a significant threat to public health, according to research published by the British government-backed Health Protection Agency (HPA). In its report, which reviews the latest scientific evidence on the health effects of modern municipal waste-to-energy facilties, the HPA concludes that any potential damage from facilities is likely to be so small that it would be undetectable.

Commenting on the report's conclusions, a spokesman for the HPA said: "The evidence suggests that air pollution from incinerators makes up a fraction of 1% of the country's particulate emissions. Industry and traffic account for more than 50%. "European Union Directives aimed at minimizing landfill are leading to an increased use of incineration, and research suggests that this will not cause any significant adverse health effects. The report cites evidence from the Department of Health-affiliated Committee on Carcinogencicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, which concluded that any potential risk of cancer due to living near a municipal waste incinerator was "exceedingly low", and probably not measurable by most modern techniques.

Harnessing the Energy of Trash

Alyssa Lappen penned an article for inFOCUS magazine entitled "Harnessing Energy from Trash" in which she advocates for implementing policies in the United States that would utilize the currently untapped energy potential in our trash.  The rest of the world has jumped ahead of the United States in terms of harnessing the energy in waste and Lappen urges the U.S. to catch up.  The Energy Recovery Council wholeheartedly agrees.  The ERC believes lawmakers and policymakers must recognize that the combustion of municipal solid waste produces clean, renewable, and climate-friendly energy.  Policies that provide the appropriate incentives for waste-to-energy will promote energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support the communities that rely on this important technology.

Waste-to-Energy is a Valuable Renewable Resource that Must be Considered

Jackie Noblett of Mass High Tech wrote a story highlighting efforts to remove the regulatory moratorium on new waste-to-energy capacity in Massachusetts.  There is no legitimate basis to place a moratorium on waste-to-energy facilities.  The stringent state permitting and siting processes exist to ensure that only facilities that meet certain criteria can be built.  Arbitrarily prohibiting local governments from considering waste-to-energy limits their options and increases costs and risks associated with exporting large amounts of waste to neighboring states.  Waste-to-energy plants should not be subject to an arbitrary moratorium.  Rather, all facilities should be treated equally and subject to the same reviews.

Fishing for Energy: Marine Waste Recycled into Electricity

The Christian Science Monitor published an article highlighting the Fishing for Energy program, which is a partnership among Covanta Energy waste-to-energy facilities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Schnitzer Steel.  Along the Northeast coast, seven ports in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have been outfitted with 40-cubic-yard dumpsters where fishermen can dispose of their used gear free of charge.  Once the dumpsters are full, the gear is transported to a nearby recycling facility where metals are removed from crab pots and lobster traps, and nets and ropes are sheared for easier disposal.  The gear is then sent to a Covanta waste-to-energy facility where the waste is converted to electricity.  Each ton of fishing gear is able to generate enough electricity to power one home for 25 days, estimates Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer for Covanta Energy Corp.

The Fishing for Energy program is another fine example of the ability of waste-to-energy to recover valuable energy and materials from items commonly considered "waste". 

WTE Projects Continue to Reduce GHG under the Kyoto Protocol

Showing continued worldwide acceptance of waste-to-energy as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a waste-to-energy project in Ivory Coast (Africa) is the latest municipal waste project approved to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  The Abidjan Municipal Waste-to-Energy Project, which is the first CDM project located in a member state of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), will collect and treat 200,000 tons of urban waste per year using anaerobic digesters, and the resulting biogas will be used to produce electricity, while residual waste will be transformed into compost.  This project, which has received the approval of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of more than 71,000 tons of CO2 per year.