Solid Waste Disposal: The Business of Incineration
The need to properly dispose of solid waste has been around for centuries. Today, solid waste disposal is a multibillion dollar industry. Unfortunately, this industry also has the potential to have an adverse impact on the environment. However, the need to conduct solid waste removal in a profitable and environmentally friendly way will always be of the utmost importance. Though there are many methods to handling solid waste, such as landfills and composting, the use of incineration or Waste-To-Energy (WTE) has largely been missing in the United States.
There are several benefits to utilizing WTE facilities but they are primarily created to reduce or eliminate the need for landfills. Landfills, if not maintained properly, can pose a serious risk to the ground water, release methane gas, and leave the land unusable for future development. Incineration, with the use of specially designed filters, can create a reliable source of clean power generation and waste reduction. The power from these WTE plants can then be sold to consumers at a reasonable rate.
These WTE plants also come with their own down side and environmental risks. WTE facilities are known to emit pollution such as soot, heavy metal vapors, and acidic gases. After the incineration/power generation process has been completed, left over ash and heavy metal debris must be disposed of appropriately. If not properly regulated, emissions from WTE plants can have a significant negative impact on air quality. Also, there is always the possibility that people and wildlife surrounding a WTE plant could be exposed to harmful airborne waste byproducts.
There are business opportunities at every stage of the waste disposal process. Though Waste-To-Energy facilities are not the answer to our environmental and energy needs, they should be a part of the solution. Recycling and re-purposing of all materials should always be the first in a series of steps prior to incineration. The need to reduce or eliminate the need for landfills should continue to be top priority. Many nations in the European Union have already adopted a robust strategy that includes a mix of recycling, WTE, and landfills.