January 29, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: Playing the name game doesn’t change what it is

— Ever notice how advertisers will change the name of something to make you feel better about it?

Around 1980, the incineration industry re-branded itself “resource recovery.” Its main trade group was named “Institute for Resource Recovery.” By the mid-1980’s, “trash-to-steam” was popular, as if burning trash produced nothing but water vapor, instead of toxic emissions and toxic ash.

In 1991, the Institute for Resource Recovery became the Integrated Waste Services Association. Recently, the industry has attempted to link trash incineration to energy with labels such as Energy Recovery Council, Waste-to-Energy, and Energy from Waste; as if burning up resources does not really waste far more energy that it recovers.

We also have incineration technologies disguising themselves as “not incineration,” such as RDF pellets, gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incineration. Many cities have rejected proposals for such facilities because the salesmen’s claims could not be verified. Other cities have gone ahead and have found themselves struggling with reliability, emissions and profits.

Recycling creates far more jobs, and saves far more resources, than incinerating resources does. It doesn’t matter what you name it or exactly how you do it. Once built, incinerators compete for the same material that recycling programs want.

If you think incineration Is the answer, somebody asked the wrong question. It is certainly not the answer to resource recovery. It is also a very expensive answer to the electric generation question.

Diana Brown