From the...


 
Incineration debate stuck in past era, air quality expert says

Incineration is a nasty word in Ontario environmental circles, but it shouldn't be, says a Hamilton professor and environmentalist.

Brian McCarry, a McMaster University chemist who is an expert in air quality, supports a recent report that recommends an advanced incinerator plant for Hamilton-Niagara region to burn garbage and generate electricity.

 
 
European cities such as Amsterdam and Vienna have such advanced garbage incinerators that you can walk by them in a central neighbourhood and not realize what they are.

 
 

Like Ottawa, Hamilton-Niagara is trying to figure out what to do with mountains of waste when there is only limited landfill space. Many residents in Stittsville and West Carleton are upset about a proposed tripling of the size of the Waste Management of Canada landfill on Carp Road.

Mr. McCarry, the chairman of Clean Air Hamilton, says Ontario politics and public opinion around the waste issue are coloured by old, dirty incinerator plants that belched out dioxins and furans in great quantities. But technological advances in the 1990s changed incineration to such an extent that "you can have a very, very clean plant," he says. "The emissions are very low."

 
 
Mr. McCarry doesn't favour big landfill expansions.

...In the case of landfills, no one's sure about what air emissions they produce. At least with modern incinerators, these emissions are contained and reduced to acceptable levels, he says.


 
 

European cities such as Amsterdam and Vienna have such advanced garbage incinerators that you can walk by them in a central neighbourhood and not realize what they are. Modern incinerators burn garbage at a high temperature and use pollution-control systems to limit emissions.

Mr. McCarry says the public discussion on waste management in Ontario has become irrational, with people insisting on single solutions to the problem. In reality, he said the solutions to Ontario's garbage crisis should involve a wide variety of actions, including big increases in waste diversion and recycling, high-tech incineration and some continued use of landfills.

Mr. McCarry doesn't favour big landfill expansions. He says people think it's the end of garbage when they toss it out and it's carted away. But in fact the remains of landfills may last for a century. In the case of landfills, no one's sure about what air emissions they produce. At least with modern incinerators, these emissions are contained and reduced to acceptable levels, he says.

But Mr. McCarry says having a fact-based discussion in Ontario about municipal waste is very difficult. "It's got to be like religion. It's almost a debate you can't have. There's no middle ground."

Toronto exports its garbage to the United States rather than deal with its own waste or consider the environmental effects of trucking all that garbage.

 
 
...new technology won't become widespread here until people decide it's not acceptable to use scarce land to dump garbage.

 
 

One of the companies that's in the waste-incineration business in Canada, Eco Waste Solutions, says it isn't spending time and money to get into the big-cities market because there's a fear of the technology based on old, erroneous perceptions.

"The stigma around it is the biggest issue. People still think of incineration as a dumpster and a Bic lighter," says company president Steve Meldrum.

Eco Waste Solutions builds small incinerators for isolated communities in the Canadian north and around the world. An incinerator with pollution controls for a Canadian community of 4,000 people, and a small building to house it, can be built for $4 million, Mr. Meldrum says,

But he says that even with incineration plants working in Europe and parts of Canada, the new technology won't become widespread here until people decide it's not acceptable to use scarce land to dump garbage.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2006
 

PREVIOUS ARTICLES and LINKS:

Mar. 04  - 2006   Letters to Editor: "Incineration experts" and "Councillors' failure"

Feb  25 - 2006   RCOC believes 'sound planning' means waste treatment at source:

 

 

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