Pros & cons of incinerators

Written by bob shneidley
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Pros & cons of incinerators
Garbage often ends up in large landfills if not incinerated. (garbage image by Einar Bog from

Incinerators have long been debated by environmentalists as well as all concerned stakeholders. Whatever the side of the debate you lean toward, it is clear that the country has a massive amount of trash that needs to go somewhere. In addition, there are some definite pros and cons to using an incinerator. Learn about some of the leading arguments for and against the use of incinerators.

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Pros of Incinerators--Energy Conversion

Incinerators can turn garbage into electricity through the incineration process, thereby taking a useless item (trash) and turning it into electricity, a highly used and valuable resource. Incinerators burn garbage 24/7 and therefore produce a constant stream of electricity. A 250-ton per day incinerator can produce almost 6.5 megawatts of electricity daily and save about £1.9 million to £3 million in fuel annually, according to Terry Ally.

Pros of Incinerators--Waste Reduction

A main argument for the use of incinerators is that they can greatly reduce the volume of waste in solid form by converting it to a gas form. Incinerators take the waste that would be occupying landfills and puts it into the incinerator, where the emissions are controlled and limited in the amount that makes it into the atmosphere. Landfills are eyesores, have horrible smells, and much of the material takes hundreds, if not thousands of years to decompose.

Cons of Incinerators--Community Impact

Incinerators are massive buildings that can create a negative and unwanted impact on surrounding residential areas. Incinerators have been known to create falling ash in the area from leaked emissions. In addition, their presence is a major deterrent to attracting residents to the area, as they are inundated with the constant flow of large trucks as well as the unpleasant sight of industrial machinery. Also, workers at incineration plants report getting sick from the fumes.

Cons of Incinerators--Air Pollution

All types of incinerators cause some type of air pollution, and can put up to 190 different types of chemicals into the air at one time, according to Groundwork, an environmental group. Of particular concern is the highly toxic fly ash. This ash must be safely disposed of, which usually requires the need for specialist toxic waste landfill elsewhere. Incinerators also emit varying levels of heavy metals into the atmosphere, such as vanadium, manganese, chromium, nickel, arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium. All of these metals can be toxic at varying levels.

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