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November 18th, 2013:

Book excerpt: Incineration: The Biggest Obstacle to Zero Waste

by Paul Connett, posted on Earth Island Journal:

It is hard to understand why any rational official living in the twenty-first century and facing the critical need to develop sustainable solutions would countenance the squandering of finite material and huge financial resources on a nonsustainable practice like incineration. One European report has estimated that a combination of recycling and composting lowers greenhouse gas production forty-six times more than an incinerator producing electricity.

Incineration might make sense if we had another planet to go to, but without that sci-fi escape it must be resisted in favor of more down-to-earth solutions that we can live with – both within our local communities and on the planet as a whole. Both incineration and landfilling attempt to bury the evidence of an unacceptable throwaway lifestyle. Every incinerator built delays this fundamental realization by at least twenty-five years – about the time it takes to pay back the huge capital costs involved in building the facility, and during that time it has to be fed, leaving little room to allow for more sustainable solutions to coexist.

Ten Arguments Against Incineration
Argument 1: Incinerators Are Very Expensive

Incinerators remain formidably expensive, but that expense is often hidden from public view with giant public subsidies. To pay for the capital and operating costs, as well as the operators’ profit margins, the community or region will have to sign put-or-pay agreements, which trap them for twenty-five years or more. As the industry has struggled to make incineration safe, it has priced itself out of the market – or it would have if the market was applied on a level playing field.

Over half the capital cost of an incinerator built today goes into air pollution control equipment. Ironically, if the waste were not burned in the first place this hugely expensive equipment would not be necessary, nor would the toxic ash collected in these devices have to be sent to an expensive hazardous waste landfill, nor would the air emissions be subjected to very costly monitoring. But the public is being kept ill informed about the poor economics of incineration. Instead, they are being told that incineration is going to save their communities money.


Howard Winn/SCMP: Air pollution continues to plague streets of HK; health costs pile up

Howard Winn, in his column for the SCMP, has tirelessly written articles for consecutive weeks to promote awareness over the continued poor state of air quality on the streets of Hong Kong; its slow but deadly and very costly effects on the health of Hong Kong’s citizens, especially children; and the lack of action and evidence of aptitude from the Hong Kong government in dealing with this matter:

How much longer for action on roadside pollution?

The Environmental Protection Department issued a statement yesterday morning pointing out that its air pollution indices at roadside air quality monitoring stations reached a “very high” level. However, turning to the Hedley Environmental Index (HEI), we see that it described air pollution over Hong Kong more graphically as being “very dangerous”.

The HEI is linked to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which indicate the levels beyond which air pollution begins to affect health.

In Causeway Bay, the hourly concentration of nitrogen dioxide at 5pm was 259ìg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre), compared with the WHO guideline average level for a 24-hour period of 140ìg/m3 – i.e. 85 per cent over the WHO limit. At the roadside in Central, the nitrogen dioxide level was 338ìg/m3. The PM10 respirable particles were 99ìg/m3 and 105ìg/m3 at Causeway Bay and Central respectively, compared with the WHO short-term guide of 50ìg/m3.

Levels of the much more dangerous PM2.5 particles, which can enter the lungs, were also dangerously high at 65ìg/m3 and 61ìg/m3 in Causeway Bay and Central, compared with the WHO guideline of 25ìg/m3. These figures are way above WHO guideline levels.