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[GreenYes] Re: Questions about incineration vs. coal


The incinerator does not sound like a good thing for your community even as only an interim solution. 

Regarding the yard wastes- the highest and best use principle points us to composting yard waste and combining the composting steps with heat recovery, and methane conversion to energy with CO2 sequestration.  


Regarding the construction debris- Its not as simple an issue as the yard waste issue because of the composite nature of this waste.  Have you seen or requested any detailed analysis of what your communities "construction debris" is made up of?   There are some significant toxic impacts that your community should consider in carefully looking at the tradeoffs in this type of waste:

  • In particular, as you may know construction debris contains PVC materials that are readily found in "construction debris"  (ie. siding, irrigation tubing, drainage pipes, plumbing pipes ) Burning PVC may likely result in dioxin emissions that pose a serious helath threat to the community;
  • Construction debris may contain a significant percentage of painted wood mixed in since wood prior to 1985 was painted with leaded paint.   Burning lead painted wood may lead to increased lead emissions into the community air that pose a serious health threat.  
  • Construction debris includes thermostats, switches, and other electronics.  Burning these may lead to increased toxic organic chemical and heavy metal emissions into the community air again posing health threat.  Although most plastic housings of electronic devices in construction waste have fairly high BTU value for burning the electronics inside pose a burning risk since mercury emissions and other toxic emissions from burning the brominated flame retardants integrated into these materials for fire safety.  

The CIWMB has some analysis of what constrcution debris is made up of but it is for CA.  I believe there have been some good MN studies you can look at to find out exactly what wastes are under consideration and to go one by one and look at the non-burning alternatives to manageing these wastes most sustaninably.  A big part of the problem is when they are being lumped all together (and mixed when generated).  In CA there has been much developoment of home and commercial "deconstruction" to beable to recycle and reuse as much as possible instead of landfilling or burning these products.  


Incinerators have been identified as one of the largest sources of dioxin-much higher then coal.  There are excellent resources on these topics found at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives / Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) website,


Antoinette "Toni" Stein, PhD
Berkeley, CA

cell:              650-823-7662

----- Original Message -----
From: "Curt McNamara" <mcnam025@no.address>
To: "GreenYes" <GreenYes@no.address>
Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2007 9:03 PM
Subject: [GreenYes] Questions about incineration vs. coal

> A colleague has been asked to comment on approval of a permit to
> re-start an incinerator. It is located at a refuse transfer station and
> would be fed with yard waste and construction debris (no garbage). The
> question is whether this is preferable to land-filling the construction
> waste since the energy from the incinerator would reduce the load on the
> local coal plant, reducing its emissions.
> Comments are welcome, especially those that would allow us to trade-off
> one kind of emissions from the other. Thanks!
> My question was, with regard to the "eco" biomass incinerator. We're
> concerned about the proposed permit allowing some amount of toxic
> emissions from the plant, which would be a result of burning
> construction waste as there is not enough true biomass materials to
> provide fuel for its operation. I don't know what a good baseline is
> for toxic emissions. The proposed plant would generate up to 25
> Megawatts.
> I realize that this would likely take a load off of the coal fired
> plants in the area, so I'm wondering if, compared to coal, this
> biomass/construction waste combination wouldn't be possibly better for
> air quality, even if not ideal.
> Of course, there are better solutions, such as wind power, but I'd
> like to determine whether this isn't a "perfect is the enemy of the
> good" type of situations.
> Curt

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