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[greenyes] Re: Changing World Technologies


Alan and others,

I was trying to point out how mindfully.org was confusing the issue by
equating depolymerization with incineration. I know the differences very well.
Several organizations have in my view been confusing the issue by making
sweeping generalities about waste combustion in any form, such as
www.mindfully.org and GAIA at www.no-burn.org
Combustion will provide the great majority of our power for the forseeable
future, so we should advocate for the least harmful methods of combustion
available.

EPA placed energy recovery above landfilling in it's waste management
hierarchy for good reasons. There are numerous examples of 'waste' incineration
projects that achieve net environmental benefits when compared to the
alternatives. One that should be especially close to GRRN listers is in the recycling of
paper. Paper recycling mills produce far more short fiber sludge than do
virgin mills; 15% or more of the incoming paper comes out as sludge. This is an
organic waste, mixed with bits of film plastic (envelope windows, tape, bags,
strapping, etc.) that is thereby unsuitable for composting, but is often
landfilled and will generate methane emissions for decades to come. The short fiber
sludge is sometimes dried and burned to power the mill. Not only does this
combustion produce carbon dioxide, a much more innocuous greenhouse gas than
the methane from a landfill, but in comparison to coal, it results in reduced
mercury emmissions, eliminates a lot of transportation, avoids the impacts from
mining, and produces an ash that poses fewer concerns and offers more
potential for beneficial use than coal ash.

The production of pelletized fuels from low-grade scrap paper and non PVC
plastics is another option that can greatly improve the viability of some
postconsumer recycling programs, with the caveat that fuels must be considered as an
option of last resort, with recycling being the first priority. Even the best
curbside recycling programs generate significant amounts of nonrecyclable
paper and plastic waste that must be disposed of. Residue disposal costs
threaten the viability of many recycling programs, and fuels production can sometimes
make the difference between life and death for local recycling efforts.
Don't rule out burning without first considering each case.

Jay Donnaway
Community Waste Control
Atlanta, GA
(Former nonprofit MRF operator and State of Georgia Recycling Coordinator)

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