Garbage Incineration Update for October 2021

A roundup of latest news and information on garbage incineration work in the United States and around the world.

Salem, Marion County, OR

On June 30, the Marion County Commissioners signed a 3-year contract with Covanta Marion (with options for ten more years) to continue sending Marion County solid waste to the incinerator in Brooks.  The terms of the contract make the incinerator an even greater danger to everyone downwind than it was already because it allows Covanta Marion to increase the burning of out-of-state “supplemental” industrial wastes and medical wastes by tens of thousands of tons per year.  The toxic emissions from the plastics in particular in both of these types of waste are especially dangerous.  They release dioxins and a variety of heavy metals.

Regular County waste will be cut back by about 40,000 tons per year to make room for Covanta Marion to burn at least that much more of the very significantly more profitable industrial and medical wastes.  And vastly more than the imported 40,000 tons could be burned if Covanta Marion chooses to implement a provision (“alternative disposal method”) that allows them to send the County’s waste to a landfill so the incinerator has more room for the more profitable waste.  With the July 1 initiation of this new contract, the incinerator has essentially become a regional dumping ground for the waste that surrounding states and Canada are wise enough to send far away from themselves.

You can read the contract on the County website.

The incinerator “tipping fee” for County waste was decreased from $87.45 per ton to $37.50 per ton, which gives Covanta Marion even more incentive to substitute industrial and medical waste in place of the County’s waste.

Citizen Concerns

The contract seems to give Covanta the latitude to burn as much out-of-state (and Canadian) “supplemental waste” as it wants.  Even though the contract says it will “guarantee” that it will burn at least 125,000 tons per year of Marion County solid waste, it also provides for an “alternative disposal method.”  This is a way that Covanta can substitute the much more profitable “supplemental waste” in place of part (or all) of that “guaranteed” 125,000 tons of County waste.  The route by which the “alternative disposal method” is implemented is for Covanta to simply say they cannot handle as much County waste as they thought (because they are burning so much more of that much more profitable supplemental waste than they expected) so they need to send large portions of the “guaranteed” County waste to a (cheaper) landfill instead.  Alternatively, they can just pay a flat $49.95 per ton “underprocessing fee” to the County and then burn the supplemental waste at $150 per ton (or whatever the going rate is) in place of the County’s waste. 

Additionally you can read:

Covanta Marion garbage incinerator ends partnership with county

Thermal recycling: Not in my backyard?


Ocean City, MD – Compost Don’t Burn

Stop Burning Garbage Start Recycling and Composting in Ocean City, MD

City sends waste to an incinerator that impacts minority communities in Chester, PA as opponents suggest boycott.


Town of Ocean City Invests in ‘Go Green OC’ Composting Program


Revere and Saugus, MA

Revere Pushes For Some Control Over Saugus Waste Facility

The Boards of health in cities or towns near solid waste facilities would have increased say over operations at those sites under legislation filed by a Revere Democrat and considered at an Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee hearing.”


New Jersey- Recycling Bills focus on minimum content and chemical recycling

N.J. chemical recycling bill sets stage for industry’s battle with environmentalists

Bill (S-2515) would be among the most progressive recycled content rules in the country, and would complement the single-use plastic and paper bag ban that Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law last year.

Bill (A-5803) focuses on a burgeoning technology known as chemical recycling, which employs a thermal process to convert industrial, commercial, agricultural or domestic plastic waste into additives for products like crayons, roofing shingles and even fuels.

Ontario, Canada
Burning Waste in Cement Kilns

Paul Connett, Glens Fall, NY, gives a new lecture ; MECP is more interested in protecting St Mary Cement’s profits than Ontario citizens’ health

GHG Emissions in UK

Guide warns incinerator GHG emissions often worse than predicted
The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) published a good practice guide for assessing the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of waste incineration. The guide is intended to be used both by those carrying out climate assessments and by those reviewing or evaluating those assessments, writes Shlomo Dowen of ZWE member United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)

Our research found that incinerators often perform significantly worse than modelled for planning applications and environmental permits. Incinerators often deliver lower levels of electricity generation and release higher levels of fossil CO2 emissions, resulting in higher carbon intensity than claimed by those promoting incineration “

Thermal Recycling in Europe

Thermal recycling: Not in my backyard?

The Benefits of Waste to Energy

Discussion of Trends in Europe

Asia Development Bank

GAIA Opposes ADB support for investment in WTE systems at 54thMeeting of Asia Development Bank, May 3-5, 2021


Photo credit: iStock

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.