Incineration vs Zero Waste: energy and climate

Incineration vs Zero Waste: energy and climate

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In light of the climate crisis, the incineration and landfill industries are trying to clean up their reputations and increase their profits by “dressing up” their waste treatment as if it were a renewable energy source. In Argentina, the model of mass burial in "landfills" has proven to be a failure and a source of contamination and health problems.

Dirty technologies can't clean up the climate mess

In light of the climate crisis, the incineration and landfill industries are trying to clean up their reputations and increase their profits by "masking" waste treatment as if it were a renewable energy source. Using names like "energy recovery", gasification and plasma, they have gained access to money for renewable energy promotion policies and some "green" programs. The construction and expansion of extremely expensive, polluting and climate-damaging disposal projects is being encouraged, and is obstructing efforts to reduce the generation of garbage and stop climate change, justifying and promoting an absurd and expendable consumption model, which according to some members of the IPCC are on the causal bases of climate change.

In Argentina, the model of mass burial in "landfills" has proven to be a failure and a source of contamination and health problems. However, this model continues to be promoted throughout the country, now with financing from the World Bank and the possibility of obtaining “carbon credits” with the capture of methane from mega sanitary landfills. As if this were not enough, the installation of incinerators to "recover" energy from solid urban waste is also being promoted.

The truth is that incinerators emit more CO2 per unit of electricity generated from their smokestacks than coal-fired plants, and landfills are a major source of methane emissions into the atmosphere, the main one in the United States. If this methane is recovered to sell carbon credits, other pollutants are also emitted into the atmosphere, so the method should not be used within the CDM. Incinerators and landfills feed on those resources that we should be reusing, recycling or composting, such as paper, food scraps, glass and aluminum, and counteract efforts to reduce waste generation in the first place. They also destroy the inputs that supply numerous sources of work derived from the recovery of materials, thus increasing the problems generated by poverty. The emission of supposedly “clean” energy drives the greater use of electrical appliances with the consequent increase in highly polluting electronic waste.

The garbage industry increases its profits with the climate crisis

In addition to gobbling up the millions of tons of resources available to the world annually, the incineration and landfill industries are appropriating money to promote renewable energy, waste reduction, and real climate solutions. . Not a penny of public money should be wasted on technologies that increase global warming, such as incinerators and landfills..

Climate change requires that we deepen the reduction, reuse, recycling of the inorganic fraction and the total treatment of the organic fraction through anaerobic biodigesters or aerobic composting as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use and that we put end waste incineration.

Preventing the generation of waste through responsible consumption and recycling saves energy and avoids the emission of greenhouse gases because:

  • Avoid incinerators and their emissions. Incinerators destroy the climate by emitting greenhouse gases. As a recent European study shows, when all carbon emissions coming out of incinerator chimneys are considered, incinerators emit much more greenhouse gases per kilowatt hour of electricity generated than coal-fired power plants. [one]
  • Reduces emissions from landfills. If organic waste is fully treated using anaerobic biodigesters or kept separate for composting, no methane is generated in landfills.
  • Reduces energy use. The comprehensive treatment of municipal solid waste saves energy: the amount of energy required to manufacture products from virgin raw materials is much greater than the energy required to manufacture these products from recycled materials. For example, the amount of energy wasted by not recycling aluminum and steel cans, paper, printed materials, glass, and plastic in the United States is equivalent to the annual output of 15 medium-sized power plants. [2]
  • They leave the carbon in the forests. Deforestation generates 25 percent of global carbon emissions, and the pulp and paper industry accounts for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it the fourth largest source of GHG emission. If paper consumption is reduced and recycling is increased, more trees and more native forests (which conserve a large amount of carbon) are preserved. Despite this, the incineration industry falsely promotes the burning of paper as a sustainable resource!

As the picture shows, reducing waste is even more energy effective than recycling it.This means that reducing waste generation prevents the emission of more greenhouse gases than recycling, since recycling does not reduce the amount of waste generated.

Incineration destroys the climate

Some incinerators generate energy, the so-called “energy recovery” plants or “energy recovery” incinerators. But since the prevention and recycling of waste saves this resource, the energy generated by incinerating waste is low compared to that saved by recycling and reducing the generation of the same materials. For example: recycling, instead of incineration, mixed paper saves 9 times more energy. Incinerating plastic generates almost 3 times more greenhouse gases during its life cycle than recycling this material. Reducing computers saves 1,700 times the energy that can be generated by incinerating discarded computers!

Let's think about him Lifecycle of the things we use and discard to get the whole picture. For every product that is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill, a new product must be made from virgin raw material, rather than from reused materials. This means that more natural resources must be mined, logged, depleted, processed and transported around the world, which wastes a large sum of energy and generates unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. The consumption of products manufactured in places far away from their consumption centers implies an extra expenditure of energy. The creation of local economies linked to the recovery reduces these impacts.

Zero Waste for Zero Global Warming

Climate change demands the implementation of policies and programs that support the Zero Waste objective with profound attitudinal changes as a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The budget for waste management needs to be applied in a strategic way, focusing on increasingly reducing the final disposal of municipal solid waste without using incineration.

* Citizen Anti-Incineration Coalition -

* Good Ayre Forum -


[1] Hogg, Dominic "A Changing Climate for Energy from Waste?" Friends of the Earth UK, March 5, 2006

[2] RISE bill, 2007 bill in the U.S. Senate.


AVM Contributions on the Subject:

With the garbage ... what do we do?

Recycling can help !!!

Recycling fair

Incinerators of Argentina

Death is breathed !!!

Dag- global day of action against garbage and incineration- (2002-2006)

Origin of the Citizen Anti-Incineration Coalition of Argentina.

Fight of the Citizen Coalition Anti-Incineration-

Garbage a serious problem

No solution to the garbage problem

Mother there is only one - polluting garbage.

Moronense Neighborhood Association-AVM

Ong. Social-Environmental Volunteering Program-Without Subsidies.

Dra. Gladys Enciso-Founder.

Founding Member of the Citizen Anti-Incineration Coalition of Argentina.

Member of GAIA-Global Alliance for Alternatives to Incineration.

Member of FOROBA-Foro del Buen Ayre-Climate Change.

"The best inheritance we can leave to our children is:
Love, Knowledge and a Planet in Which They Can Live ".

"Without Environment. There is no Future."

Video: LANDFILL VS WASTE-TO-ENERGY. pros and cons of burning trash (May 2022).