KirstieP has sent me information about this issue. One item is the press release from Clean Water Action, State backs away from garbage reduction policy.
Three years after MassDEP drafted a statewide Solid Waste Master Plan for reducing trash called “Path to Zero Waste,” the Patrick Administration appears to have veered off the path.
The Administration has announced it will soon release a new proposal to lift the 22-year-old moratorium on more incinerators.DEP asserts that the reason for the unexpected policy shift is that Massachusetts is running out of landfill space and needs more ways to dispose of garbage. But environmental and public interest groups protest that new disposal sites are unnecessary because MassDEP could conserve landfill space by enforcing its own regulations against disposal of certain recyclable materials at transfer stations, landfills, and incinerators. The list of materials that are banned from disposal includes commonly trashed items such as paper, cardboard, wood, bottles, cans and more.
The incinerator companies and their lobbyists probably have the obvious ulterior motives for pushing for the lifting of the moratorium.
I suspect that the public could be easily fooled into thinking incineration is a good idea because the waste seems to disappear when incinerated. Some of it may no longer be visible, which is the true definition of disappear, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist. Except in nuclear reactions, matter does not go away or be turned into energy.
If you weigh the waste after it is incinerated and include the weight of what goes up the smokestack, then you won’t find any loss of mass. It’s all still there.
Some people are thinking of the air around us the way we used to think about rivers. We used to think that you can dump your waste into rivers, and it will all be washed away and diluted, We know now that their is a limit to how much we can put in a river before we exceed its capacity to dilute and wash away. That started to become obvious when we could start to see the remains of what we had dumped into the rivers. The diluting and washing away idea only works to postpone the time when we recognize that we have not solved the problem.
Some of the latest incinerator technology claims to get the particle size of the smokestack effluent down to sizes which are below what we normally think of as causing visible air-pollution. That just means we can’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that it is no problem. In fact, if it is problematical to put some of these toxins into solid waste landfills, then why would we want to set them loose in the air we breathe.
We are much better off keeping a close eye on the containment of the toxic solid waste that we cannot recycle or reuse, than we are to let it go into the wild, where we have little idea of where it is going or the harm that it is causing.
It may turn out that these nano-particles of incinerated waste are biologically more dangerous than the larger particle. From a high-tech point of view, I know that issues are being raised about semiconductor nano-technology. People are concerned that we do not have a thorough understanding of the consequences of nano-particles entering the body. This concern is raised about things that are engineered to be helpful. We should show at least as much concern about nano-particles of toxic material that were not ever intended to do good to the human body.
MaryA has provided me with the link to the Tellus Report, Assessment of Materials Management Options for the Massachusetts Solid Waste Master Plan Review. The link is to the report as posted on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ own web site. It was commissioned by the state and published in December of 2008. So the state government cannot claim that it is unaware of this information.
The report’s disclaimer says:
This report was prepared by the Tellus Institute, a not-for-profit research and policy organization under a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The report (including its summary and analysis of information) is entirely the work of the Tellus Institute and its subcontractors on this project. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the Tellus Institute and do not necessarily reflect MassDEP policies.
There is a great 9 page executive summary at the beginning of this 68 page report.