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[greenyes] waste gasification and pyrolysis: not part of a zero waste approach
Dear all,

The technologies (waste gasification, pyrolysis, plasma arc, etc) mentioned
below do actually create hazardous pollutants and are in other ways similar
to incineration. Below are a number of helpful reports and articles about
environmental concerns related to these technologies.

These are also especially expensive end-of-the-pipe approaches that fail to
address the need to prevent wasting, reduce toxicity of materials, and
reuse, recycle or compost discards. They are not part of a zero waste
approach. The concerns about gasification and pyrolysis are the same as
those raised in the recent GAIA report called Waste Incineration: A Dying
Technology -- please see the report at  (key areas include:
economic issues on pp. 26-30, energy loss and sustainability on pp. 31-35).

Eric mentioned California's foray into what the state is calling "conversion
technologies." Please be aware that this term is intended to put a more
friendly face on some thermal treatments of waste, like waste gasification.
Unfortunately California is treating these technologies as if they were very
similar, but they actually have some crucial differences (for example, some
are thermal treatment and combustion of wastes, while others are biological
processes such as composting of green wastes). A number of us in California
are concerned about some of the technologies that that state is including in
this category, including waste gasification. For these reasons I urge
everyone to only use the term "conversion technology" when referring to
California's current exercises, and otherwise refer to the specific
technology in question.

Below are some resources about waste gasification and pyrolysis.
Thanks, Monica Wilson

1. Description of waste pyrolysis and gasification:
Pyrolysis is thermal decomposition at about 400 C and higher without the
addition of oxygen or air.  Proponents claim pyrolysis takes place without
oxygen but medical or municipal solid waste will always contain some oxygen.
Gasification, which is considered combustion by EPA and therefore covered
under EPA's medical waste incinerator rule, is thermal decomposition at
about 400 C and higher with the addition of a limited amount of air or
oxygen.  Both pyrolysis and gasification plants are in effect incinerators
since their gas products are subsequently burned.  For this reason, both are
considered incineration by the European Union.  Depending on the composition
of the waste and operating conditions, they release dioxins and furans,
mercury and other metals, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrogen
chloride, sulfur dioxide, etc. as well as toxic contaminants in the char or
ash residues.

2. Health Care Without Harm's short explanation on pyrolysis and
gasification is at: .
While this paper examines these technologies for application with medical
waste the issues raised in this fact sheet would be similar for other waste
streams (for example, those which contain chlorinated materials like PVC).

3. The U.S.-based Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League's (BREDL) has a
number of recent reports and information about gasification and pyrolysis

4. "Incineration Repackaged" by Stephen Lester (CHEJ):

5. The European Union Parliament's Directive on Incineration of Waste:
"'[I]ncineration plant' means any stationary or mobile technical unit and
equipment dedicated to the thermal treatment of wastes with or without
recovery of the combustion heat generated. This includes the incineration by
oxidation of waste as well as other thermal treatment processes such as
pyrolysis, gasification or plasma processes in so far as the substances
resulting from the treatment are subsequently incinerated."

-----Original Message-----
From: Leslie Nowinski [mailto:lnowinski@no.address]
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2003 2:47 PM
To: Eric Lombardi
Cc: greenyes@no.address
Subject: Re: [greenyes] What would a $400 million Zero Waste Plan look

New technologies such as Plasma waste conversion, Gasification and
Thermal Depolymerization that use MSW to create electricity or oil
without creating pollution are something to consider.  A company like
Startech is a good place to start...

On Wednesday, September 17, 2003, at 05:31 PM, Eric Lombardi wrote:

> Greetings GreenYessers,
> This proposed Broga incinerator has a $400 million price tag to handle
> 1,500 TPD.    What would the 1.500 TPD Zero Waste Plan look like, and
> how much would it cost?  Until we can answer that question, we haven't
> lived up to our potential.   If anyone has the answer, there are some
> folks in Malaysia that would like to talk to you...and so would I.
> And let's be careful not to fall into that familiar old trap of
> creating only end-of-pipe solutions ... that's not Zero Waste, that's
> just Maximum Recovery.
> Eric Lombardi
> Eco-Cycle

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