GreenYes Digest V96 #61

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GreenYes Digest Fri, 27 Dec 96 Volume 96 : Issue 61

Today's Topics:
Incinerators, not enough garbage, product redesign
Seaching CA Statutes

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Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 12:07:04 +0100
From: "Joe Strahl" <>
Subject: Incinerators, not enough garbage, product redesign

I've been following the thread about Germany, garbage shortages, and
now incineration. I'd like to add my two or three cents to this.

First, we must remember that half of what we hear about the situation
in another country is probably not quite true. Particularly with
regard to solid waste in Germany lots of "horror" stories can be
found. On GreenYes recently we have heard that Germany has imported
waste from Brazil to keep its incinerators running. During the same
year waste has been exported from Germany to Spain and Sweden. It
just doesn't make much sense.

I would agree with Hal's reflection about what the waste shortage
means (edited down):

> I believe the issue is related to the need to recoup the investment in the
> huge, so-called "environmentally-friendly" incinerator- cum-electricity
> providers. The seductive notion of a power plant fueled by garbage caught
> hold in Germany, and enormous effort went into creating these devices in a
> way that would be deemed environmentally acceptable. ........ But, having
> invested not only the capital but the social capital of educating people
> about how to separate garbage and establishing the mechanisms for recycling
> waste into fuel, the Germans are understandably reluctant to abandon there
> "environmental fantasy" of waste-to-fuel. But, in fact, from an
> environmental perspective, there can never be a true shortage of waste from
> human over-consumption. The shortage in Germany appears to be for fuel to
> feed the co-generators and their investors desire to recover their capital.

The situatuation in Sweden today is not too dissimilar from that in
Germany. Last spring the managers of the so-called waste to energy
facilities in parts of western Sweden were worried: they were
beginning to feel the effects of increased source separation with
more diversion toward (material) recycling. Prior to that there have
been a number of articles in the Swedish waste management trade
journal or the Swedish EPA journal with titles like "The heat value
of industrial waste must be used more effectively" or quotes from
spokespersons from the waste trade or industrial associations like
"We have 23 waste to energy facilities in Sweden which must be
supplied with waste" emphasis on MUST. Diverting industrial
waste from landfills to incinerators could be a way to make up
for the MSW shortfall. Obviously some people are
worried about recouping their investments. Still others may be
worried about their job or just don't like the idea of having to
rethink their position on waste.

Second, I think that it should be fairly clear by now that
incineration of waste locks us into unsustainable patterns of
material flows. Since waste to energy is a rather lucrative branch
but with rather large original investments, vested interests fight to
keep burining and establish new incinerators. Thus materials which
could be subject to recycling but with a high calorific value (read
paper and plastics) tend to get burned. Since the recycling and
increation industry is after the same kind of waste it seems
difficult to understand the logic of ideas like integrated waste
management when their are inherent tensions amoung the waste
management strategies and techniques. Of course, perhaps the idea is
that integrated waste management sounds good and is a very good way
to cover up these tensions and help give incineration indirect

Finally, the talk about Germany misses something else. Not only is
there "less waste" to go around but the kind of waste is changing in
some cases. Also, "less waste" can be either the result of better
source separation with a greater percentage of waste being recycled
or it can be the result of changes in product design which lead to
less waste from the start: ie. prevention. There are examples where
producers of packaging have made not only great changes in the
material composition of the packaging (for example from plastic and
paper with glue to keep it together to just plastic or just paper)
but have also reduced the volume and weight of the packaging. The
information on packaging may be moved to a display in a store to
better grab attention with a corresponding reduction in consumer
packaging to almost nothing.

So while diverting increasing percentages of MSW into recycling
schemes may be one thing, seeing the first steps toward redesign of
goods and services leading to inherently less waste is, in my mind, a
much more exciting prospect.

Joe Strahl

The International Institute for
Industrial Environmental Economics
at Lund University, Sweden

P.O. Box 196, S-221 00 Lund

direct tel. +46 - 46 - 222 02 28
telefax +46 - 46 - 222 02 30



Date: 26 Dec 96 11:05:05 EST
From: Myra Nissen <76275.1032@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Seaching CA Statutes

The web site to seach CA Statutes is

This is another site you may be interested in:

Congressional Rearch Service
Committe for the National Institute for the Environment
1725 K. St., NW, Suite 212, WDC 20006 202-628-4303




End of GreenYes Digest V96 #61