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and thy medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, 400 B.C.
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Incineration - A Poisonous Technology and a Hoax
Incinerators represent a special environmental threat, because the combustion process releases and combines toxic materials in household and medical waste into super-toxic air emissions and tons of super-toxic ash. It is also a wasteful technology, as it destroys a huge source of reusable and recyclable materials. Overall, the typical volume reduction accomplished by incinerators is 60-70%, which could be accomplished easily and cleanly by comprehensive recycling.
The EPA estimates that more than 80% of the dioxin produced in the U.S. is from municipal and medical waste incinerator air emissions. Tons of mercury, lead, and other heavy metals are emitted in vapor form as well from incinerator stacks. "Modern" pollution controls on these poison factories just move some of the toxic emissions from the air to the ash.
Incineration is really a hoax: it does not even eliminate landfills. Ash landfills (called monofills) are far more dangerous and toxic than raw trash landfills. Incinerator ash is extremely hazardous, containing dioxin and heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Ash landfills are a legacy of poison that must be monitored for eternity. They never can become non-toxic, because most of the toxic materials in them - the heavy metals - do not bio-degrade.
The incinerator industry has known all these facts for years. Analyses of dioxin and other emissions from municipal waste incineration, overall efficiency of incineration as compared with comprehensive recycling, and the toxicity of ash were published early in the development of "modern" incinerators. The incinerator industry, however, chose to continue promoting its technology as an alternative to landfills, and often negotiated expensive, one-sided Guaranteed Annual Tonnage contracts, ensuring that communities that used incinerators were given a dis-incentive to recycle their trash.
Because of community opposition to incineration and the pollution and economic disaster that it brings with it, most of the incinerator proposals developed in the last five years have been abandoned, and many incinerators have been shut down due to violations of the Clean Air Act. The industry and their bond sellers are continuing, however, to find ways to re-invigorate the industry. The latest public relations campaign promotes incineration as a "renewable" energy source.
The idea that incinerators are "renewable" energy sources - promoted by the media - is ludicrous. The energy consumed in the creation of the materials - most of which is conserved if comprehensive recycling is pursued - is of course lost if they are incinerated, and this loss is far greater than the energy in the combustible materials.
It is the position of Toxic Alert that all incinerators - municipal solid waste, medical waste, hazardous waste, and Superfund mediation, should be closed and that incineration should be banned worldwide.
For a sample news article about an incinerator, see the NESWC article.
The list below was derived from Waste Not, a publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200, and anecdotes from other sources.
Incinerators in the U.S.
Massachusetts Ash Landfills - The generating facility is in parentheses.
1993-1994 Resource Recovery Yearbook, Directory & Guide, by Eileen Berenyi, Ph.D. and Robert N. Gould, 718 pages, published by Governmental Advisory Associates, Inc. (a private consulting/research group), 177 East 87th Street, NY, NY 10128. Tel: 212-410-4165. Fax: 212-410-6607.
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