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Pros and Cons of Waste Incineration

Burning waste

Waste incineration is the process of burning waste materials, produced by people in homes, schools, factories, stores and hospitals.

What is Waste Incineration?

The waste that can’t be recycled goes to landfills, where is covered and mixed with dirt. The problem with a landfill is created by the space required to deposit huge amounts of waste, and to free some space, the only solution available is to burn the waste.

If burning the waste is a good way to free some landfill space, we can’t say the same for the environment, because burning waste materials generate a large amount of harmful emission in the atmosphere.

To understand them thoroughly we will look at the pros and cons of burning waste:

Waste incineration process in plants, source: mc-techgroup.com.

Pros of Waste Incineration

There are a couple of benefits produced by waste incineration?

1. Proper Waste Management

The most outstanding merit of burning trash is that it reduces the amount of solid waste deposited in landfills. It makes managing the waste easier, as nearly 90% of the waste is gone.

The ashes that are left behind are biodegradable to a certain extent. Whereas the landfills cannot absorb things like plastics, they keep on accumulating reaching a high concentration.

waste processing

Waste processing plant, source: mc-techgroup.com.

2. Decreasing Dependence on Landfills

It reduces the dependency on landfills. Since more than 90% of the waste vanishes into thin air, it frees up much of the land for other purposes.

In rural areas, this is not a significant issue since there is plenty of properties to spare.

However, in urban areas, this is a massive advantage as the land is quite expensive and scarce.

3. Transportation of Waste

Shipping and collecting waste is a big problem for very city. It is hard to find workers in the field, and it costs a lot of money. Moving the trash away from the city spares money that could be used for other projects.

4. Energy as a Byproduct

The waste burned in power plants produces a lot of heat that is used to produce steam. That steam is used to spin a turbine and produce energy using a generator. Such a plant can also produce residential heating for nearby communities.

5. Groundwater Safety

When the municipality dumps the waste material in landfills, then the harmful chemicals can seep into the earth polluting the underground water resources. The contaminated water can no longer be used as drinkable water.

When waste is incinerated the ash left behind is relatively safe to dump or store in an open area.

6. Recycling Metal

Metals have a higher melting point, which means that even if we burn trash containing scrap metal, after burning it to ash, we can still find pieces of metal that can be collected and recycled.

7. Eliminates Excess Waste

Incineration plants can decrease the volume of the waste since it turns the material into ash.

However, if the garbage is thrown away without being previously processed, then some materials inside it may start to decay producing toxic gases and a very bad smell, which will affect all the people living close to the landfill.

Landfill waste incineration – source: chinadialogue.net

8. Eradicates Harmful Substances

The burning process of waste finishes off any viruses or bacteria that are present in the waste. That’s why fire is the best way to destroy clinical waste.

9. Incinerators Use Traps

The plant uses different pipes and valves to block certain emissions from escaping into the atmosphere, and also uses different traps to capture the harmful smoke produced in the burning process.

The pipes should be made by reliable factories because ball valve manufacture is essential for the safety of the waste incineration process.

Before being released, the smoke is processed to become less harmful for the environment. Preventing the toxic gases from escaping before being processed, reduces the amount of carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur, and nitrogen oxide (NO) released into the atmosphere.

The main problem concerning the incineration of compact waste is created by the discharges of precarious compounds, particularly dioxin.

Nevertheless, up to date incinerator plants use filters to trap dangerous gases and especially dioxin. The existing incineration plants function within the obligatory pollution have limits mentioned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

10. Digitized Monitoring System

Governments, both local and federal, can buy an industrial size incinerator equipped with processor devices to allow the workers to solve most glitches occurring in the burning process. It is a far more worthwhile investment as the technology will enable workers to ascertain a fault before it becomes challenging and expensive to repair.

A workstation will allow machinists to work without delay in production, making the operation of the plant more productive. A computer will also help machinists work as they can find the operational productivity of the plant.

11. The Usefulness of Ash

The byproduct which the waste creates in the form of ashes can be put to use in multiple ways. We can use it in buildings, landfills, roads, and pavements. Apart from that, ash can also serve us in several other ways.

It can be useful as a filling material wherever there are gaps in between structures. It will reduce not only the amount of ash that the industry has to dump but also transferring costs.

Cons of Waste Incineration

There are also a few drawbacks produced by waste incineration.

1. Expensive Machinery

The industrial plant used to burn waste is quite an expensive investment. the infrastructure is complicated, it requires a large budget and a very thorough initial planning. Moreover, you need proper machinery, which requires regular maintenance.

The plant also requires skilled staff, which is not very easy to find.
These people have to work with devotion around the clock. They have to solve any issues that may occur locally, and this is another reason why the entire process is quite costly.

2. Air Pollution

The smoke released when burning waste in the landfill is very toxic, and the gases released can contain carbon monoxide, sulfur, nitrogen oxide and traces of other poisonous substances.

This is the reason why waste should be incinerated in plants not in landfills because the plant will prevent some of the dangerous gases from escaping into the atmosphere, while burning waste freely in the landfill will only pollute the atmosphere and the air of the people living close to the landfill.

3. Long Term Complications

Incineration may have its merits, but on the long term, this is not a viable solution.
Recycling should be perfected to reduce the amount of waste dumped in landfills, while the amount of materials recovered and reintroduced in the production process should be increased.

Waste should be burned only in plants to reduce the amount of toxic emissions released into the atmosphere.

Preparing waste

Preparing waste for burning, source: cbc.ca

4. Dangers of the Leftover Ash

The ash left behind after burning trash poses its own risks. Though they are in small quantity, yet they mostly contain harmful materials. The risk of them mixing up with rainwater and contaminating the water table is more real than we think.
The ash resulted shouldn’t be left in landfill to avoid any contamination, it should be collected and used for other purposes (in the construction sector).

Conclusion

The incineration process is not the perfect solution to get rid of trash. There are a lot of things which we must take into consideration when burning trash outside a plant.

Inside the plant it can be turned into a sustainable resource (trash is part of the biomass), but to avoid any environmental issues we should remove as many toxic emissions as we can, because we want to generate energy from it without affecting the life of the people living close to the facility.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

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