has had a moratorium on increasing incineration capacity since 1989. The
threats to public health posed by the incinerators’ emissions is
indisputable. However, under industry pressure, the Mass Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) is considering lifting the state moratorium,
which would open the door for new facilities, belching toxins, heavy metals,
and global warming gases. The reasons for our 22-year moratorium are still
valid today. And now additional concerns are making headlines: depletion of
energy and material resources, and climate change.
The EPA requires incinerators “to use the best
but unfortunately, while there have been some improvements in control
technologies, emissions are not monitored on a continuous basis and there
are concerns about the accuracy of monitoring devices.,
 Emissions are self-reported and plants are
not required to report emissions during start-up and shut-down periods or
during malfunctions. When emissions exceed allowable limits the waste
company is fined long-after the fact when the damage has been done. Also,
ultra-fine particulates, most dangerous to health, are not limited or even
Health impacts of dioxin include cancer, IQ
deficits, disrupted sexual development, birth defects, immune system damage,
behavioral disorders, diabetes, and altered sex ratios. Some studies show
higher cancer rates and the presence of elevated levels of dioxin in the
blood of people living near municipal solid waste incinerators when compared
to the general population.
All along the line, from the people who work in the plants to the people
living near landfills where bottom ash has been deposited, people are
exposed to dioxin and other contaminants from incinerators. High levels of
dioxins are also found in food and dairy products produced near
incinerators, so that the toxic impacts of incineration are as far-reaching
as the shipment of that food to other communities.
CO2 than Coal, Accelerating Climate Change
Incinerators directly emit more CO2 per unit of
electricity generated than coal-fired power plants.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that when
comparing power sources, biogenic emissions from incinerators must be
accounted for in evaluating global warming impacts.
Destroys Needed Resources
We must conserve our limited resources, not look for
new ways to destroy them. Massachusetts already burns 34% of discarded
destroying these valuable resources for only a miniscule amount of energy –
far less than could saved by recycling those materials. Most of the discards
destroyed by incineration could be reused, recycled or composted, saving
energy and resources, and generating new businesses and jobs in collection
Low Efficiency Captures Only 20% of the Energy
Incineration captures only one fifth of the caloric
(energy) value in garbage; recycling saves three to five times as much,
because of the energy saved by using recycled feedstock for manufacturing
instead of harvesting virgin resources.
Virgin raw-materials industries are among the world’s largest consumers of
energy. For example, recycling office paper saves four times more energy
than the amount generated by burning it. Recycling offers energy savings for
other materials as well.
Incineration Injures Recycling Efforts
Incinerators compete with recycling for the same
waste streams—the high Btu paper, cardboard, and plastics. In many places,
incineration has capped recycling. Incinerators require a constant high
volume of garbage that often requires long-term contracts with
municipalities for a specified amount of waste. These contracts destroy
incentives for municipalities to reduce and separate waste at the source,
and reuse, recycle and compost. For example, presently Covanta is offering
Cape Cod towns a financial incentive to sign long-term contracts pledging at
least 50% of their waste to the incinerator, which would then cap recycling
at 50%. This is in conflict with the Cape Cod and Islands Planning
Commission’s goal of 60% recycling for the Cape.
And Nantucket’s recycling rate of 85%.
Gasification, Pyrolysis, Plasma and Waste-to-Energy:
New Processes or Just Hype?
The newer high-heat conversion technologies -
gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma arc - are classified by the EPA as what
they are: incineration,
but instead of burning garbage directly in a single chamber, they heat waste
until it forms a gas that is then combusted as fuel or electricity. While
incineration companies invest in greenwashing their processes, the
differences among them are miniscule. And when compared to emissions from
old-style incinerators, emissions from these newer high-tech sounding
processes show the same emissions of concern.
Continuing the Trash Incineration Moratorium Will Benefit Massachusetts
Despite efforts to make incineration safer, it
remains a 19th century technology that is increasingly problematic given our
dense population, the number of new toxins in the waste stream, dwindling
material and energy resources, and the threat of climate change. We must
retain the moratorium on increased incineration capacity to make way for
proven alternatives that offer multiple benefits for Massachusetts. Adopting
this moratorium would:
Allow the development of innovative waste-reduction programs
in reuse, recycling, and composting that will generate new businesses and
job in the Commonwealth;
Protects residents from increased health impacts of
Conserve energy and material resources wasted by incineration.
Save landfill space that would be used for increased loads of
Combat climate change.
 Development of Maximum Achievable
Control Technology Standards, US EPA, Office of Inspector General
http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/1996/mactsrep.htm, accessed May 11, 2009
 Jay, K., & Steiglitz, L. (1995).
Identification and Quantification of Volatile Organic Components in
Emissions of Waste Incineration Plants. Chemosphere. 30(7). pp.
 Waste Incineration: A Dying Technology;
GAIA. July 14, 2003.
 Pascal Brula and others, “Etude
d’incidence des cancers a proximita des usines d’incineration d’ordures
managers,” Departement sante environment, Institut de veilee, sanitaire.
 USEPA. How Does Electricity Affect the
 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National
Greenhouse Gas Inventories; Chapter 5: Incineration and Open Burning of
Waste," Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change National Greenhouse
Gas Inventories Programme, p.5.5, 2006.
 Morris, Jeffrey, Comparative LCAs for
Curbside Recycling, Versus Either Landfilling or Incineration With
Energy Recovery. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. (2005);
 Massachusetts Municipal Residential
Recycling Rates, FY 1996-2001 and Calendar 2002-2007, Massachusetts DEP.
http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/priorities/munirate.doc Retrieved May 6,
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Title 40: Protection of Environment, Hazardous Waste Management System.
General, Subpart B—definitions, 260.10. Current as of April 25, 2008.
 Waste Conversion Technologies:
Emergence of a New Option or the Same Old Story, Theodore S. Pytlar,
Jr., Vice President, Dvirka and Bartilucci Consulting Engineers,
presented to the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations, Solid
Waste & Recycling Conference, May 9, 2007.