Waste into energy – another toxic legacy?
WA citizens face the prospect of incinerators, rebadged as “Waste to Energy Plants” establishing in Red Hill, Kwinana, Rockingham and Canning Vale. These technologies are being touted as greenhouse friendly, sustainable, environmentally benign, and a socially and economically responsible way to manage waste and produce energy.
Waste incinerators burn our consumer waste products at a temperature of greater than 250°C.
The chemical components in the waste stream breakdown into toxic by-products such as dioxin, nano-particles, toxic gases and particles which are released to air and partly captured in scrubbers forming toxic ash residues. This ash requires disposal to secure landfill as hazardous waste.
There is no safe level of exposure to Dioxin, a known carcinogen.
Nano-particles are so small they pass directly into the bloodstream. Australia does not regulate nano-pollution or nano-materials in consumer products.
Air pollution from incinerators can travel long distances and harm our health. Babies, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk.
Incineration takes waste capable of being recycled and turns it into hazardous pollution. Even with new high technology incinerators, global waste experts warn that for every four tonnes of waste burnt, one tonne of toxic ash is created.
When waste products are burnt, the embedded energy used to create the product in the first place is destroyed.
The energy (and water and chemicals) used to extract the raw materials out of the ground, transport them long distances, manufacture the raw materials into products, package them and transport them to the consumer, is lost to the atmosphere as carbon, when they are burnt.
Accounting for embedded energy in waste, reveals that incineration cannot be sustainable.
WA has a poor recycling rate compared to other states in Australia. Incinerators destroy incentives to improve recycling rates and create green jobs.
A shocking fact from the USEPA is that incinerators can create more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of energy than coal fired power stations.
According to UK expert Peter Jones, two tonnes of CO2 are generated from every tonne of waste burnt. Three tonnes of CO2 were generated from each tonne of waste created.
Carbon is more reliably sequestered back into the environment through composting, recycling, reusing and recovering our waste and has been estimated by experts to reduce greenhouse gases 46 times more effectively than incinerators.
Comparing incineration to the Waste Hierarchy:
|Incineration||Requires large constant waste streams to be viable.||Turns everything into toxic ash and toxic emissions||Requires recyclable wastes to burn to maintain viability||Emits more CO2 per unit of energy than a coal|
|Non incineration – Source separation, composting, recycling, reusing and recovering||Wastes become more visible. Education and research facilitates reduction and alternatives.||Promote the reuse of waste stream components.||Promote recycling as it is the central aspect of “resource recovery”.||Can recover four times more energy than burning waste|