It is specified, under this act that that waste is disposed of or recovered without putting human health at risk and without harming the environment in particular, such as air, water, animals, plants or soil and also It should not cause any foul smell or noise around so as to affect any human being. (Environmental Protection…)
Some of the other legislations that can be listed are as per follows.
2. The Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994
3. Environment Act 1995
4. Waste Minimisation Act (1998)
5. Pollution Prevention and Control Act (1999)
6. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2005
7. The Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2006. (UK Wasteâ€¦)
It should be noted that the above list is not exhaustive. The purpose of all these legislation is to protect the environment and all natural substances such as air, water, land, animal, plants and surroundings from the ill effects of hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes.
The Risks Associated with Existing Incineration Sites
Incinerations are not a right waste disposal technique for the following reasons.
Destroying Valuable Resources
Incineration of waste simply means that materials have been used only once and then are destroyed.
It is a fact that all natural resources that we make use of have finite supplies. All natural resources whether it is iron, aluminum, copper, plastic, glass do not have unlimited supplies then why are we not thinking on recycling of these natural resources? Precious natural habitats and forests in Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, and Myanmar were exploited on mass scale for the supply of timber and production of pulp for paper mills. This is also the reason why some of the species have become extinct and natural ecological system has been put in jeopardy. Wood and paper recycling is need of the day to save our forest area. For that matter recycling of all natural produce is a necessity in these ever increasing consumer demands.
A small study on SELCHP Incinerator
It is a myth that incinerators finish the waste. Einstein’s principle holds true here also that matter cannot be destroyed but are only transformed from one form to another. Essentially, incinerators do not destroy them they just convert it into gases and ash. Household waste which is a cocktail of many harmful substances when burnt in incinerator produce many harmful gases and part of it gets released into atmosphere through chimney. The residue known as ash goes for landfill.
Incinerators burn the wastes that create toxic fumes. Though the norms are made by regulatory authorities; often they are violated by the incinerator operators. Two incinerators that are in operation in south London (SELCHP) and North London (Edmonton) were fined for infringements innumerable times in the last 15 years.
It is known that domestic waste contains fluorescent tubes and bulbs which have mercury in it, plastic materials, cadmium and many other harmful compounds. Besides, some of the electrical appliances contain cadmium, chromium and lead. They cause more volatile compounds in the heat of incinerator and generate dangerous vapors which get escape from chimneys of the incinerator into the atmosphere polluting natural environment and air. (SELCHP INCINERATOR 2002)
Dioxin-a most Potent Threat to the Mankind
The plastic materials like PVC, CPVC which contain bound chlorine with them and release dioxins when gets burnt. Dioxin, most toxic substance second only to radioactive waste, falls under the class of super-toxic chemicals that forms during burning of plastics and organic chemicals. In the past, people were made to leave the places such as Love Canal and Times Beach, Missouri due to excessive contamination of dioxin. Various plasticizers used in production processes of plastic are also harmful when get burnt in the incinerator as they emit toxic gases which in turn get released in the atmosphere.
At least for last more than 25 years incinerators are used to burn industrial and medical waste. A large list of domestic products using vinyl plastics when burned in incineration is a reason of increased level of dioxin, which spreads settling on crops that are subsequently eaten by cattle. It not only contaminates lakes, rivers and other water source but also accumulates in the fat tissues of the animals and secreted in milk and meat products. Dioxin is excreted by the human and animal body very slowly and they are mostly indestructible. (Dioxin 2011)
Most Potential Reasons That Go Against Incinerators
Incinerators emit enormous amount of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and create change in global climate. Incinerators emit more amount of Carbon dioxide in comparison to any fossil fuel-based power plant that includes coal based power plant per unit production of electricity. (Burning wasteâ€¦)
Industries of the area take advantage of the situation. Industries around dump their toxic waste to get rid of and thus conveniently hide their dirty practices. In a way they use the incineration system to their advantage and continue their operations at the cost of society.
Incinerators take away the recycling possibilities of natural materials and thus create the wastage of the natural resource. The possibilities of extra job creations in recycling industries are taken away by the costly incineration technologies. In a way, it is a colossal waste of not only natural resources but public money. (Recycling versusâ€¦)
It is a myth that incinerators produce energy from waste but the truth is that by burning the waste they increase the consumption of fresh materials. This tends to increase the energy consumption in producing those materials. Energy consumption is at least 4-5 times more in producing fresh material in compare to recycling of those materials. (Burning wasteâ€¦)
Residual ash generated is almost found to be 30 percent of the original waste by weight and that needs to be disposed of to landfill sites. The ash is toxic and though all precautions are taken in land fill, they may get leaked into groundwater. All toxins being in ash has more chance of leaching then when they are in unburned state. As per the EU commission, leaching from landfills will be one of the most potential sources of dioxins in coming years. The landfill area has been accumulating huge amount of ashes by burning the waste in incinerators and will be a serious concern for continual source of pollutants in the water streams and then it will be difficult to remove it and preserve our water sources. The spoiled water from such carcinogenic compounds will bring a doom for society at large. (SCHARFF H)
The bottom ash is being used for construction purposes; however, this is far from being safe. Mainly the ash is being employed for the road construction and the ash mainly contains lead, arsenic, sulfates, zinc, that are in unbound state and not suitable for use in road construction. The authorities permit bottom ash for road maintenance and construction and likely to cause leaching in underground source of water spoiling good water source. It is to be kept in mind that the ash containing highly toxic materials such as dioxins and heavy metals has all chance of leaching to the surrounding soils and can spoil the agricultural land permanently. This is highly dangerous in the sense that it can spoil the food products such as grains, fruits and vegetables which are consumed by humans. No monitoring is being done on such construction and on its after-effects and it is not known what cost society may have to pay for such practices in the long run. The leaching of these compounds will mainly take place intensively during rain, snow and windy environment.
Incinerator ash is currently being used by Birmingham City Council for road building in huge amount. Even in the capital city of London, its use has been made at the places like Waltham Forest, Enfield, Greenwich and Essex. It is being used extensively in road construction but without proper monitoring and knowing that how and in what intensity it can spoil good arable land and water sources. (What Happensâ€¦)
Incinerator Report in Byker, Newcastle
Incident on Byker plant in Newcastle is worth noting. On the insistence of local populace and many environment protectionists that they do not want incinerator any further, municipal council agreed to take the stock of the situation. A working group was formed comprising local residents, various agencies and council members to examine the issues and proposals. Since 1994, bottom and fly ash from incinerators were used in preparing path material in and around Newcastle and total materials used were to the tune of 2000 tonnes. Initial tests showed presence of heavy metals and on public demand the Council agreed to carry out further testing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. (Dioxins foundâ€¦)
The results showed 800 times more dioxin level than the normal levels. Even sites which were not dumped with ash showed heightened levels of dioxin indicating that chimney emissions had fouled them. (Dioxins foundâ€¦)
Researchers at Newcastle University examined 16 allotment sites where the ash was used; 13 were found to have “very heavily elevated levels of copper, lead and zinc”, as reported by the paper Guardian in its issue 26 May, 2000. (Dioxins foundâ€¦)
Alternative Plan to Handle Municipal Waste
It is true that landfill area has to be reduced for several reasons. European Landfill Directive demands considerable reduction in the quantity of biodegradable waste disposal. It has formulated three step reduction in waste going for land filling. Taking 1995 as baseline, the first step reduction is set at 25% by 2010, second step at 50% by 2013 and last step at 65% by 2020. Due to this reason many municipal authorities take the stand that incinerator is necessary to meet the norms under the directive but the argument is not acceptable for several reasons. (Landfill Directivesâ€¦p 8)
If just 30% of newspaper, card and organic wastes, are recycled, it is possible to meet the first target as required by the directive in reducing biodegradable waste going to landfill. This and future targets can certainly be achieved with the systems and technologies that are currently available.
It should be noted that targets are only for biodegradable waste. Government estimates itself tell that 60% of the current waste is biodegradable so in a sense there is no difficulty in meeting the government norms with regard to landfill targets.
Though, it is necessary to decrease the amount of waste going for land filling but it is not at all necessary to use incinerator for the purpose.
Several towns such as Canberra in Australia by 59%, the city of Edmonton in Canada by 70% and the towns in New Zealand and USA have successfully achieved reductions in land filling up to even 70 percent without resorting to any incineration technology. This has been achieved by them in a short span of 5 years. As such, most of the people in the industry have the view that 60% is quite realistic target for reduction in landfill by recycling and other methods. (SELCHP INCINERATOR, p 5)
This can otherwise be achieved through skillfully designed methods and techniques as laid down in the following plans.
An efficient collection and composting of garden, kitchen waste is the first step in this process to meet the recycling targets and Landfill directives. The domestic stream materials separation needs some basic infrastructure and that can also be used for recyclable material from trade and similar streams.
The source separation of waste is critical step in waste reduction programme. It can be separated in three streams.
A. Dry Stream
B. Compostable Stream
Oil, light bulbs, paint pesticides will not be included in the municipal waste stream. They will have separate collection points at appropriate locations.
Wet Organics-Stream 1
Subsequent to separation, Composting will be the next step towards waste management.
Organic material causes major environmental issues and its separation reduces the toxicity level for it eliminates organic acid which dissolves heavy metals and cause the leaching.
Organic waste constitutes about 40 percent of the household waste. Taking away the full range of organic materials along with dry recycling reduces the volume and odour causing potential of the residual stream.
Garden and kitchen waste streams are treated separately. Food waste is normally high density and can be composted at enclosed facilities while green waste being low in density can be composted separately. Home composting is the best solution for garden waste.
Dry Recyclables-Stream 2
Metal, cans, glass bottles, paper, textiles constitute about 30-40% of dry recyclables. However, this requires following steps in order to make it successful
a. It needs educating people to have maximum participation so that these dry recyclables are collected to its maximum.
b. New collection ways and means are employed for convenient and successful collection of these materials.
Residual Waste-Stream 3
The best part of Mechanical-Biological Treatment (MBT) is not to mix up recyclables, organics and toxic materials so that they cannot contaminate each other. MBT reduces the amount of the residual by a further 50%
MBT System can be summarized as per the following
1. Source separation
2. Mechanical stage. Metals, plastics and other materials are removed.
3. The biological stage– made of composting system to reduce the weight. The materials composted at this stage are paper, card board, kitchen waste, and the organic material.
4. The residue is now reduced to a great extent and also stabilized. This can be land filled as it now carries a very low risk of methane production.
Advantages over Incineration
The advantage of MBT plant is their flexibility to adjust as per modular concepts.
They can be constructed quickly at much lesser cost.
With all hazardous materials removed from the waste stream, the residuals will be more inert like. This can be finally composted and send to landfill. In contrast, incinerator always keeps on generating toxic gases from chemical and thermal reactions.
Plastics and paper are the two materials that provide maximum calorific value in municipal wastes. Plastic is the main cause of hazards and paper recycling is much more beneficial compared to fresh production as already discussed earlier. (Landfill Directiveâ€¦)
Thus, we conclude that government should stop promoting Incinerator installations to treat municipal waste and think of the other ways as out lined above to treat municipal wastes
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