[NEWS] Is Sustainable Trash Burning a Load of Rubbish?
– by Carrie Arnold, August 1, 2016, Smithsonian
Paul Gilman wants your trash.
Gilman isn’t a hoarder, and he maintains an admirable standard of personal cleanliness. But when he passes the dumpsters linked up at the end of driveways on trash day, filled with unwanted garbage to be taken to a landfill, all he sees is waste. To Gilman, chief sustainability officer at Covanta Energy, garbage represents an untapped and surprisingly clean source of energy.
The world is drowning in garbage. Between squalid dumps outside of slums, landfills tucked away into economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the tons of plastic endlessly circulating in the ocean, our trash is polluting every last nook and cranny of the planet. At the same time, humanity is using up the world’s fossil fuels at an ever faster clip, throwing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and depleting reserves of oil and coal. Gilman and advocates of waste-to-energy approaches believe that they can solve both problems simultaneously.
Covanta is one of the world’s biggest companies specializing in waste-to-energy, essentially burning garbage at high temperatures to produce steam and create electricity. Rid your mind of the incinerators of old, Gilman emphasizes. These are no pollution-heavy behemoths belching toxins into the air. Scrubbers remove chemicals like dioxins and furans, and less garbage in landfills means less methane in the atmosphere. It also means fewer carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.