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RE: [greenyes] Waste-to-Energy

Hi Sharon ~

I think you have asked a truly difficult question of how to compare the
level of harm of various types of environmental impacts.

I am not sure that there is a real 'answer', but for guidance, I find some
assistance in the approach of the field of environmental valuation, in which
the relative harm of different emissions to different media (air, water,
land) is estimated. Another term used for this approach is to look at the
externalities, with the addition of evaluating their relative impacts.

For solid waste, the EU, the UK and the Scandinavian countries have done a
number of these studies and some links are:

The last of the above is a summary of the PhD thesis of Inger Brisson of
Denmark, and I would strongly recommend buying the full thesis, which is
extremely comprehensive.

Unfortunately, the most complete work that I have found is from Norway, but
is not available in English, and the most recent work is from Austria, but
it is in German.

I hope that these are of some value as you look to address a very difficult

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Sharon_Gates@no.address [mailto:Sharon_Gates@no.address]
> Sent: Monday, March 08, 2004 12:40 PM
> To: greenyes@no.address
> Subject: RE: [greenyes] Waste-to-Energy
> Dear GreenYes-
> I hesitate to raise this issue, but here goes. The City I
> serve sends its
> refuse to a waste-to-energy plant. I'm conflicted about the relative
> environmental impacts of landfilling vs. WTE. It is my
> understanding that
> our WTE plant meets Air Quality Management District
> standards. Obviously,
> the AQMD does not regulate everything, and you only know about the
> emissions that you test for. WTE has more immediate impacts
> from what is
> coming out of the stacks, as compared to the more long-term (and
> uncertain) groundwater and other impacts from landfilling. But is it
> possible to truly label one of these as the lesser of two
> evils? Is one
> really lesser?
> I am personally fully committed to zero waste. However, the
> City that I
> serve continues to generate "waste" and this is an issue I
> have to deal
> with on a daily basis.
> When you respond to this post, please do so gently. I am not
> responsible
> for my City's policies, for WTE in general, or for much else in this
> world. Please do not offer suggestions as to how to get rid
> of our WTE
> plant. I'm really looking narrowly at the
> lesser-of-two-evils question.
> Sharon Gates
> Recycling Specialist
> City of Long Beach, California
> 562/570-4694

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