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Published on August 19th, 2013 | by growwny

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To burn or not to burn?

BY: KRISTEN JANSON, GROWWNY TEAM

As of recently, I’ve become really interested in the subject of waste disposal. My family has started to compost our kitchen and yard scraps, and as a result our trash production has gone down significantly. I have started to look at things I might have previously thrown out without a second thought in a different light: does this really need to be added to a landfill? More often than not, the answer is no. It’s a significant change of mindset to reconsider everything you would have otherwise thrown out, but it’s important.

waste_cleanupOn the subject of disposing waste, incineration is an option. There are a wide variety of opinions surrounding the topic of burning trash, considering one of the troubles with it are the carbon emissions. In 2010, The New York Times invited knowledgeable outside individuals to comment on an article published discussing the growth of cleaner garbage incinerators in Europe. After reading some of the comments, these were some of the points that stood out to me:

  • Incineration sometimes leads to the separation of metals that are not usually removed through recycling programs.
  • Ash created by incinerators must be tested for toxicity before it is disposed. In some cases, the ash isn’t disposed, but rather reused to make construction materials.
  • “Over 85 percent of New York’s municipal solid waste (MSW) is recyclable. Recycling saves three to five times the amount of energy that incineration generates.” –Laura Haight
  • There needs to be trash in order for an incinerator to work, which encourages people to supply waste instead of taking advantage of recycling and composting programs. Besides promoting this poor behavior, incinerators generate more CO2 emissions with negative health effects than other fuel sources, such as coal plants.
  • It is important to remember that recycling uses energy, and isn’t completely ‘clean.’ There won’t ever be a silver bullet for trash disposal, but rather a combination of solutions, including recycling, composting, and reducing.
  • At this point in time, it is important to remember that the best method of disposing trash has yet to be discovered.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of debate on trash incineration. On the one hand, incineration can turn a large pile of garbage into a significantly smaller pile of ash, which means less landfill space. On the other hand, burning trash also means carbon emissions that can contribute to climate change. As with most issues, further research is required to determine the best way to dispose of garbage.

One thing that is not up for debate is that we can all do our part to help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Cut down on your personal waste production by trying to compost kitchen scraps and recycle paper, cardboard, glass, and plastics.

What are your thoughts on incinerating trash? Share them with us in the comment section below, or on our Facebook wall.

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