ILSR’s response to Washington Times Article: A more complete assessment of burning garbage

The Washington Times – May 5th, 2017

Trash burning costly, polluting

By Neil Seldman

Rather than provide an article on burning garbage for energy, The Washington Times chose to publish what was essentially a press release from a garbage-incineration company (“The many benefits of ‘turning trash to power,’” Web, May 1). The article praises a plant in West Palm Beach, Florida, but does not indicate that organized citizens and small businesses have defeated hundreds of planned incinerators across the country because of the plants’ high costs and environmental pollution.

In southern Florida, tens of thousands of tons of garbage are burned daily, yielding a cumulative toxic mix of air pollution and toxic ash. Allowable limits on air emissions do not protect people or the environment. The NOx generated from the plant is equivalent to more than 100,000 cars driving through a community every day.

The West Palm Beach plant has been the only one built since 1996 as a result of the universal distaste and fear of incinerators. Had it not been for the internal strife within the Florida environmental community at the time of its building, the West Palm Beach plant would not exist. The final vote for it was three to two.

Other major points were glossed over in the piece. Counties that invest in recycling, composting and reuse pay far less for their solid waste management than jurisdictions with incinerators. Closer to home, in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 15 years residents and businesses have paid incineration surcharges of $150 million above the cost of a recycling, composting and the landfill system. And incinerators have been defeated and/or closed for financial reasons in the Baltimore and in Harford, Frederick-Carroll and Washington counties. The aging plant in downtown Baltimore costs more than twice what recycling and composting do. Its days are numbered.


President, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Read the full story online here.

Avatar photo
Follow Neil Seldman:
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.