Efficient Waste Management And Incineration

Published: 27th October 2009
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Today's growing problem of waste had given way to many waste management systems. In industrialized countries, waste disposal via landfills is expensive and spaces for them are getting scarce. Incineration then becomes an attractive alternative.

Incineration

Incineration is a waste treatment technology that involves burning of waste materials. It converts them into bottom ash, flue gases, particulates, and heat.

In modern incinerators, the by-product of heat is sometimes used to generate electric power. Flue gases are cleaned of pollutants before their release into the atmosphere.

Benefits

One big advantage of incinerators over landfills is the significant reduction of waste matter into 80-85% of the original volume.

One good use for incineration is destroying highly-hazardous clinical and hospital wastes. The same is true with toxic waste water from chemical multi-product plants that cannot be processed in regular water treatment plants.

In countries like Japan where land is scarce, incineration is particularly popular. In Europe, Denmark and Sweden had been using incinerators for a hundred years. Today, they are the leading countries that re-use the heat energy by-product of incinerators into electricity. The Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg are countries that depend largely on incineration in handling their wastes.

Pros

There are several good reasons why incineration is a good waste management system to augment, if not replace other systems like landfills.

In incineration, the volume of burnt waste is reduced by about 90% which increases the life of landfills.

Incinerators can generate electricity from the produced heat and it can supplement current power needs. These incinerating plants generate a biomass-powered energy that offsets the greenhouse emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

The bottom ash residue from incinerators had been found to be non-hazardous solid waste which can be used safely for landfills or recycled into other useful materials.

With modern incinerators having temperatures ranging from 1800 up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, these ashes become vitrified after incineration. In this form, the leaching capacity and toxicity of these solidified remains are drastically reduced, if not eliminated.

Meantime, the fine particles can be efficiently removed from the flue gases with filters. Even without filters, studies from actual plants showed that incinerators emit only about 0.3% of the total particulates.

Incineration prevents the release of methane and carbon dioxide (equivalent to the weight of MSW or municipal solid wastes incinerated) into the air.

Cons

People are still uneasy over dioxin and furan emissions from old incineration plants. Also, incinerators emit varying levels of heavy metals like vanadium, manganese, nickel, cadmium, chromium, mercury, arsenic and lead. All of these are highly toxic even at minute quantities.

If they are not emitted, these heavy metals remain in the bottom ash which is toxic if not reused properly. Added to this concern is the fact that the technology for metal reuse is still in its infancy.

Today, incineration still ranks high in efficiency among the many other waste management system in use today. Maybe, what is needed is fine-tuning the various technologies associated with it to make the whole system of incineration totally efficient, safe and economical.


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