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[GreenYes] response to incineration in Israel

31 March 2008
Americans For a Safe Israelâ?¨
1751 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Dear People,

This letter contains a response to the article in Mid East Outlook, March 30, 2008 edition â??Waste to Energyâ??

by Jack D. Lauber and Alyssa A. Lappen. I would appreciate it if you would consider it for publication.
Neil Seldman


A Closer Look at Mass Incineration of Garbage in Israel
BY Neil Seldman


Seldman is co-founder of ILSR a non-profit research and technical assistance organization which assists government agencies, businesses and community development organizations in the area of waste, energy, 

agriculture, and new rules for sustainable and equitable economies. 


Apparently, there is an aggressive campaign to sell Israel on mass incineration of garbage.  Those that disagree with this formula for solving the countryâ??s solid waste dilemma are labeled misinformed, misguided or benighted radical environmentalists.


Israel should look deeper than these labels.  It will allow its citizens to approach the issue in non-ideological terms, and move beyond superficial analysis.  If not, the country will be at risk of severe economic pain as suffered in US cities, 

where mass incinerators have broken down and cost the communities hundreds of millions of dollars beyond what they signed up for.  Even where mass incineration technology performs adequately, residents of jurisdictions that have chosen this alternative pay over $40 million annually above what other perfectly adequate systems cost.



If two US states have invested heavily in incineration, more have banned it.  Of 300 plants planned for US cities and counties in the l970s-l990s, only 30 

were built.  The last one was built 12 years ago.  Detroit and Harrisburg have faced financial meltdowns as a result of failed systems.  In NJ in the 1990â??s, 5 counties built plants despite warnings from the financial community and citizens.  The next governor banned incinerators in 15 other counties; the next governor had to issue bonds for $2 billion to bail out the 5 counties.


The mass incineration units may generate electricity but on a macro level they destroy more energy than they create; because of the need for massive extraction of resources from forests and mines and oil wells needed to replace destroyed plastic, paper and other materials.  These materials are worth more on the international market than energy produced by incineration.  Prices are at all time highs due to demand from middle class economies in India and China, which make up half the population of the world.


Ironically, Jack Lauber fought mass incineration years ago with me in Philadelphia in favor of recycling and composting.  He is now a consultant for the incineration industry, claiming that the technologies have been cleaned up. I am sure that they are cleaner.  But the industry does not release the emissions that are still emitted from the stacks assuming best available pollution control technology.  How many pounds of mercury, lead, NOX, SOX and hydrochloric acid, nanoparticles and particulates come from the cleaner versions of mass incineration?





Most curious of all, a waste to energy system serves Tel Aviv and other towns that rely on biological digestion of organic matter, the production of methane to generate steam and/or electricity.  This technology, located at the municipal solid waste transfer station in Hiria, costs far less than mass incineration.  The company that developed the technology is now building a plant in Australia and is being considered for plants in Los Angeles city and county.  Los Angeles is a jurisdiction in which it will difficult to site an incinerator due to chronic air pollution.  The city of LA is diverting 62% of its former waste stream through composting and recycling.  The city has set a goal of 90% by 2025.


This approach will result in less materials going to landfill than if an incinerator is built.  The incinerator ash must be landfilled, and 

waste that cannot fit into the incinerator, and waste generated when the incinerator is down for routine, as well as unscheduled maintenance, also has to be 



Most cities do not make decisions on the environmental impact of garbage systems.  They do make decisions based on budgets and risks.  In this arena, source separation of materials at the household and commercial level, encouraged by economic incentives and efficient 

collection and processing is the proper investment.


Separation of organic matter (which is a very poor fuel as it is 90% water) is critical as it leads the way for the production of clean energy and topsoil; both important ingredients for Israel's future.


Bottom line-- why pay $500 million for an incinerator, when simpler technologies that cost just a fraction of this sum, create jobs and promote biblical values with regard to the environment are not only available but are home grown in Israel?







Prior to his career at ILSR, Seldman was a manufacturer in NYC and a university lecturer in political science at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Contact information: Neil Seldman, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 927 15th Street, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20005

202 898 1610 X 210      nseldman@no.address

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