Tag Archives: incineration

New report from GAIA!

GAIA just dropped a killer new report on the perils of incineration.

We already know how bad incinerators (pyrolysis, gasification, waste-to-energy) are in terms of the pollutants they spew out, but this report appeals even to the conservative bean counters.

Yes, incinerators are the most expensive high-risk solution to dealing with waste.  Stop supporting them.

They compete with recycling and composting programs, both of which are more cost effective and practical solutions that even create more jobs than incineration.

Here’s the press release:

Berkeley, U.S. — A new risk analysis from GAIA finds that companies promoting “waste-to-energy” projects like gasification and pyrolysis have a 30-year track record of failures and unfulfilled promises. After decades of industry promising a solution that both manages waste and produces energy, the vast majority of proposed plants were never built or were shut down.

“The global spotlight on marine plastic pollution has led to increasing proposals for technological solutions. But it’s important that investors recognize these processes do not work as promised and  set us back in developing real solutions,” says report author Monica Wilson.

According to the report Gasification and Pyrolysis: A high risk, low yield investment, “the potential returns on waste gasification are smaller and more uncertain, and the risks much higher, than proponents claim.” Billions of dollars of investments have been wasted on unsuccessful ventures in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Germany, to name a few. In 2016, the failed UK project by U.S.-based Air Products lost $1 billion alone.

Many gasification projects that started operations, have closed after failing to meet projected energy generation, revenue generation, and emission requirements. Despite decades of opportunity the industry has not resolved these problems. Other projects have failed in the proposal stage — after raising significant investments — due to community opposition and government scrutiny into false and exaggerated claims.

Gasification plants have sought public subsidies to  be profitable — particularly from  feed-in tariffs. However, these facilities would regularly burn fossil fuel-sourced material including plastic waste and coal, contradicting the purpose of “renewable energy.”

Over 100 major environmental organizations released a public letter in February stating that “We are deeply concerned by the promotion of feed-in-tariffs and other renewable energy subsidies for gasification, incineration, and the use of plastics as fuel.”

The report concludes that municipal zero waste programs relying on source separation, recycling,composting, and redesign of no-value products have demonstrated economic and technical success.

Check out the full report by clicking here.

When Zero Waste is Environmental Racism

< reposted from energyjustice.net >

– by Kaya Banton, Chester Environmental Justice

My name is Kaya Banton and I have been a resident of Chester, Pennsylvania all of my life.  Chester is a small city right outside of Philadelphia known as one of the worst cases of environmental racism.

There are a number of polluting facilities in and surrounding Chester. The most famous is Covanta, the nation’s largest waste incinerator, burning 3,510 tons of trash per day. Though Covanta is the largest incinerator in the country, they have the fewest pollution controls of any incinerator in the nation. Within a mile of Covanta, 80% of the population is black. Only 1.5% of waste being burned at Covanta comes from Chester. The rest comes from wealthy suburban areas of Delaware County, Philadelphia, and New York.

Covanta is the largest polluter in Chester and one of the largest in all of eastern Pennsylvania.  Due to the pollutants from Covanta and other industries, many people in Chester have cancer, asthma, and other horrific diseases. I know entire families that have asthma or cancer. Both my mother and my little sister developed chronic asthma after moving to Chester. The childhood asthma hospitalization rate in Chester is three times the state average.

With research and organizing support from Energy Justice Network last summer, community members went door to door last year and packed city hall twice, winning a unanimous vote of the planning commission, recommending that city council shoot down plans for the rail box building to receive New York City’s steel trash containers. Unfortunately, city council voted in favor of Covanta because they did not want to get sued. Covanta was permitted to bring New York’s trash by rail, which will put them at full capacity. A big concern from the council was the amount of trash trucks coming through the city. Covanta said that since the trash will be coming by rail, the truck traffic will be decreased majorly, but even though residents made it clear that the trash containers will be taken through Chester by train to Wilmington, Delaware then back into Chester by truck. This will not decrease truck traffic, but will only increase pollution by adding train traffic.

I did some research and found out that New York’s zero waste plan is actually a “zero waste to landfill” plan that locked in 20 to 30 years of burning waste in Chester, making the impacts of my city invisible while New York gets the benefit of looking green. I was incredibly confused as to how New York City environmental justice groups could celebrate the announcement of a zero waste plan that allowed waste to be burned in Chester. We give toxic tours of our community upon request for those wanting to see what we experience on a daily basis.

We invite anyone, especially those from Philadelphia and New York, to contact us for a tour.

Environmental Justice Victory in DC

WE WON!! Environmental Justice Victory in DC, as Mayor Pulls Incinerator Contract

<reposted from energyjustice.net>


– by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

We just stopped Washington, DC from approving a $36-78 million contract that was awarded to Covanta to burn the District’s waste for the next 5-11 years.

In a rigged bidding process, the city allowed just four incinerators (no landfills) to bid to take 200,000 tons of waste a year. The one of the four that is in a rural white community does not accept out-of-county waste, leaving three incinerators in heavily populated communities of color as the only ones eligible to bid. The contract was awarded to Covanta’s incinerator in Lorton, VA — 4th largest in the nation and one of the largest polluters in the DC metro region. Lorton is the 12th most diverse community of color in the nation, and is also home to a sewage sludge incinerator and three landfills.

As I documented in an article last year, DC’s waste system is a glaring example of environmental racism, from where the waste transfer stations are, to where much of it ends up in Lorton. On the way to this latest victory, we got the large (389 living unit) cooperative where I live in DC to change its waste contract to disallow incineration, a tiny step toward starving the Covanta incinerator. Now, we have a chance to shift the entire city away from incineration. I hope we can also repeat this in Philadelphia as their Covanta contract (for burning in Chester, PA) comes up for renewal in each of the next few years.

We did our homework and made a strong case, got diverse allies on board, educated and pressured DC city council, and flattened Covanta’s 11th hour lies. Energy Justice Network was joined by 20 environmental, public health, civil rights and business organizations in calling on city council not to move the contract to final approval, and ultimately, our new mayor withdrew it from consideration, killing it.

The city will now have to cut a 1-year contract (hopefully not with any incinerator, if we can help it). This buys us time to convince city leaders that incinerators are indeed worse than landfills and that we need to resort to landfilling as we get the city’s zero waste goals implemented, including digestion of residuals prior to landfilling.

Last summer, we helped pass a law that bans Styrofoam and other food service-ware that isn’t recyclable or compostable, gets e-waste and composting going, and requires the city to come up with a zero waste plan (and we got it amended to ensure that incineration is not considered “diversion,” but “disposal”). We’re at a good crossroads in DC, where we can get the nation’s capital setting good examples. The long-standing head of the Department of Public Works is stepping down, giving the city a chance to replace him and others anti-recycling incinerator zealots in the agency with real zero waste leaders. Any good candidates are encouraged to apply here.

Special thanks to Chris Weiss, Jim Schulman, Jen Dickman, Neil Seldman, Ruthie Mundell, Matt Gravatt, Erin Buchanan, Kevin Stewart, Brent Bolin, and the following groups who all joined forces to make this victory possible: 350 DC, American Lung Association, Breathe DC, Inc., Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council, Clean Water Action, Community Forklift, Community Wellness Alliance, DC Climate Action, DC Environmental Network, Empower DC, Food & Water Watch, Global Green USA, Green Cross International, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, NAACP DC Branch, Moms Clean Air Force – DC Chapter, Save America’s Forests, SCRAP DC, and Sierra Club DC Chapter.

Nearly Half the World’s Trash Is Burned, and That’s Worsening Climate Change (repost)

 Reposted from: http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/09/01/burning-trash-is-new-climate-change-threat

September 01, 2014 By 

Nearly half the world’s trash is burned in the open, spewing pollutants into the atmosphere that contribute to climate change and affect human health, according to a new study.

Since such burning is largely unregulated and unreported, emissions of some pollutants have been underestimated by as much as 40 percent, said the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“I was shocked at the numbers,” said Christine Wiedinmyer, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the study’s lead author. “They were much larger than I expected, particularly the air pollutants.”

The researchers estimated the amount of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury,  tiny particulate matter, and other pollutants released by burning trash.

Every year 970 million metric tons of food, paper, plastics, and metals are set aflame at homes, businesses, and dumps—roughly 41 percent of the world’s garbage, according to the study.

The garbage problem is likely to get worse. Researchers predict the world will triple its production of garbage to more than 11 million tons daily by 2100.

Fires can spring up at dumps with little warning. A fire in Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, broke out in May and burned for almost 100 days before fire crews began dousing the flames of the “dumpcano.” In March, a dump fire outside Bangkok blanketed neighborhoods with so much thick smoke that it could be seen by satellites.

Heavily populated countries, including China, the United States, India, Japan, Brazil, and Germany, produce the most waste, according to the study. China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, and Turkey generate the most emissions from trash burning.

Trash burning produces mercury, chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particulate matter. These pollutants have been linked to heart and lung disease, neurological disorders, and cancer. Annual emissions of mercury and PAHs may have been underestimated by 10 to 40 percent, the researchers said.

Trash burning may also be clogging the air with far more particulate matter than was previously thought. A global tally of reported pollutants indicated that 34 million kilograms of tiny airborne particles called PM 2.5 are released into the air annually.

Wiedinmyer and her colleagues calculate that open burning shoots another 10 million kilograms into the atmosphere—an increase of 29 percent. In Sri Lanka, garbage burning produced five times more emissions of PM 10 (a larger particle) than was included in the official national tally.

 These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and have been associated with heart disease, asthma, and premature death. About 3.7 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.

Open burning of garbage is closely related to poverty. Unregulated dump fires may be adjacent to settlements, putting the families that live there, especially women and children, at risk of health complications from the pollution. Some of these families derive income from the dump, removing valuable materials for resale.

The contribution of garbage burning to global carbon dioxide emissions is relatively small—only 5 percent of the 2010 global annual emissions. But on a country-by-country basis, it can be quite large. The study found that trash burning in Lesotho, Burundi, Mali, Somalia, and Sri Lanka produced more carbon dioxide than was recorded by the official registers.

Emissions from open burning of trash are rarely reported by environmental agencies, meaning the pollution goes uncounted and is left out of policy decisions.

Air Pollution Isn’t Just Bad for Your Health—It’s Taking Food off Your Plate

Brian Gullett, an environmental engineer at the United States Environmental Protection Agency and a coauthor of the paper, pointed out how difficult it is to calculate the emissions that come from open burning. Unlike with coal-burning power plants, no one knows the exact number of garbage-burning fires, and it can be difficult to trap and analyze the emissions.

Knowing where pollutants come from doesn’t change the burden they place on health, said Patrick Kinney, an expert on health and air pollution at Columbia University. But it does point to “which sources to go after in controlling the problem.”

Said Wiedinmyer, “If we’re looking at air pollution control strategies, we need to include all sources of air pollutants to get the most effective controls in place. If we’re missing a large source, it could lead to control strategies that aren’t going to work at all, or as well.”

New Report: “Green” Biomass Electricity More Polluting Than Coal

Mary Booth wrote an excellent report on the realities involving Biomass electricity generation.  I’d like to read it a few more times before I reflect thoroughly on it, but I’d be doing everyone a disservice by not posting it right away.  Click the link at the bottom to access the report, and please share it.

Renewable energy biomass plants are avoiding regulation, burning contaminated fuels, and threatening air quality

Pelham, MA. –  Biomass electricity generation, a heavily subsidized form of “green” energy that relies primarily on the burning of wood, is more polluting and worse for the climate than coal, according to a new analysis of 88 pollution permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal, released today and delivered to the EPA by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), concludes that biomass power plants across the country are permitted to emit more pollution than comparable coal plants or commercial waste incinerators, even as they are subsidized by state and federal renewable energy dollars.  It contains detailed emissions and fuel specifications for a number of facilities, including plants in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as ‘clean,’ said Mary Booth, Director of PFPI and author of the report.  “But we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

The report found that biomass power is given special treatment and held to lax pollution control standards, compared to fossil-fueled power plants.

Biomass plants are dirty because they are markedly inefficient.  The report found that per megawatt-hour, a biomass power plant employing “best available control technology” (BACT) emits more nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant of the same size.

Almost half the facilities analyzed, however, avoided using BACT by claiming to be “minor” sources of pollution that skim under the triggering threshold for stricter pollution controls.  Minor source permits are issued by the states and contain none of the protective measures required under federal air pollution permitting.

“The American Lung Association has opposed granting renewable energy subsidies for biomass combustion precisely because it is so polluting,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “Why we are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize power plants that are more polluting than coal?”

The analysis also found that although wood-burning power plants are often promoted as being good for the climate and carbon neutral, the low efficiency of plants means that they emit almost 50% more CO2 than coal per unit of energy produced.  Current science shows that while emissions of CO2 from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time by forest regrowth and other means, such offsets typically take several decades to fully compensate for the CO2 emitted during plant operation.  None of the permits analyzed in the report required proof that carbon emissions would be offset.

EPA rules also allow biomass plants to emit more hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) than both coal plants and industrial waste incinerators, including heavy metals and dioxins.  Even with these weak rules, most biomass plants avoid restrictions on the amount of toxic air pollution they can emit by claiming to be minor sources, and permits usually require little testing for proof of actual emissions.  When regulated as a minor source, a facility is not required to meet any limitations on emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

The potential for biomass power plants to emit heavy metals and other air toxics is increasing, because new EPA rules allow burning more demolition debris and other contaminated wastes in biomass power plants, including, EPA says, materials that are as contaminated as coal.  A majority of the facilities reviewed in the report allowed burning demolition debris and other waste wood.

“Lax regulations that allow contaminated wastes to be burned as biomass mean that communities need to protect themselves,” said Mary Booth.  “They can’t count on the air permitting process to ensure that bioenergy pollution is minimized.”

The report is available at  http://www.pfpi.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PFPI-Biomass-is-the-New-Coal-April-2-2014.pdf

Recycling Company and Executives Found Guilty of Fraud

Originally posted here: http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/22213/Recycling_Company_and_Executives_Found_Guilty_of_Fraud/

Executive Recycling, Inc. (a corporation), Brandon Richter, age 38, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who was the owner and chief executive officer, and Tor Olson, age 37, of Parker, Colorado, former vice president of operations, were convicted of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, environmental crimes related to the illegal disposal of electronic waste, smuggling, and obstruction, following a 11-day trial. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Martinez sometime in April 2013.

“The improper disposal of electronic waste not only hurts our environment, it also leaves a legacy of environmental hazards for our children and our children’s children,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.  “The trial team, including our prosecutors and staff, ICE HSI and the EPA, deserves the thanks of the public for their outstanding work during this ground-breaking environmental investigation that also involved a case of first impression in export control and complex criminal trial.”

“This criminal conviction demonstrates that there are no shortcuts to following U.S. export laws,” said Kumar Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver.  “For years this company also deceived the public by falsely advertising an environmentally friendly U.S. recycling business plan.  Instead, it regularly exported obsolete and discarded electronic equipment with toxic materials to third-world countries, and took actions to illegally hide these practices from government officials.”

“The United States is a world leader in the manufacture and consumption of electronics and we have a responsibility to ensure they are disposed of properly,” said Jeffrey Martinez, EPA’s Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Colorado. “Many of these worn-out electronics are illegally exported to developing countries where people risk their health and the environment to retrieve the valuable materials left in them. Today’s guilty verdicts demonstrate that the American people will not tolerate the flagrant violation of laws that harm the environment and people of the developing world.”

According to the indictment, as well as the facts presented at trial, Executive Recycling was an electronic waste recycling business located in Englewood, Colorado with affiliated locations in Utah and Nebraska.  The company collected electronic waste from private households, businesses, and government entities.  Executive Recycling was registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a “Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste.”  Richter, as owner and CEO, was responsible for supervising all aspects of the company.  Olson, the vice president of operations, was responsible for running day-to-day operations.

A significant portion of electronic waste collected by the defendants were Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs).  CRTs are the glass video display component of an electronic device, usually a computer or television monitor, and are known to contain lead.  The defendants engaged in the practice of exporting electronic waste, including CRTs, from the United States to foreign countries, including the People’s Republic of China.  The defendants regularly negotiated the sale of electronic waste to brokers who represented foreign buyers or who sold the electronic waste overseas.  The foreign buyers often paid the defendants directly.  To transport the electronic waste, the defendants used shipping cargo containers which were loaded at the company’s facility.  The containers were then transported by rail to domestic ports for export overseas.

Executive Recycling appeared as the exporter of record in over 300 exports from the United States between 2005 and 2008.  Approximately 160 of these exported cargo containers contained a total of more than 100,000 CRTs.

Between February 2005 and continuing through January 2009, the defendants knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme to defraud various business and government entities who wanted to dispose of their electronic waste, and to obtain these business and government entities’ money by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses.  The defendants represented themselves on a website to have “extensive knowledge of current EPA requirements.” The defendants falsely advertised to customers that they would dispose of electronic waste in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations.  It was part of the scheme that the defendants falsely represented that they would dispose of all electronic waste, whether hazardous or not, in an environmentally friendly manner.  Specifically, the defendants falsely represented that the defendant company recycled electronic waste “properly, right here in the U.S.”  They also stated that they would not send the electronic waste overseas.

The defendants’ misrepresentation induced customers to enter into contracts or agreements with the defendants for electronic waste disposal.  Each victim paid the defendants to recycle their electronic waste in accordance with the representations made by the defendants.  Contrary to their representations, the defendants sold the electronic waste they received from customers to brokers for export overseas to the People’s Republic of China and other countries.

Executive Recycling as a corporation faces a $500,000 fine per count for 7 wire fraud counts, or twice the gross gain or loss.  The corporation faces a conviction for one count of failure to file notification of intent to export hazardous waste, which carries a penalty of a $50,000 fine per day of violation, or twice the gross gain or loss.  The corporation also faces a one count of exportation contrary to law, which carries a penalty $500,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss.

Richter and Olson each face 7 counts of wire fraud, each count of which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.  They face one count exportation contrary to law, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss, or both.  Lastly, Defendant Richter faces one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy, which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.  There is also an asset forfeiture allegation, which states that upon conviction the defendants shall forfeit to the United States any and all property or proceeds derived from their illegal activity.

 

Wow!  These guys got what was coming to them, didn’t they?

I know the first thing that came to mind was what did they promise their customers?  What did their website look like?  Did they claim to have any certifications, such as the top notch e-stewards or the shady looking R2?

Let’s take a look at their About page.  If you try to go to Executive Recycling, it redirects to another e-waste recycling company…who are these Techcycle guys?  A little loophole I found allows me to get around this: check them out on Wikipedia (why they’re on there is odd to begin with) and click the link to their page at the bottom of the article.  Bam!  We’re in.

The About page has no mention of being certified at all…for all of you out there looking to recycle your electronics, ask/look for the e-stewards certification.  Any facility that has this will definitely want you to know they met its ISO 14001 standards: no prison labor, no exporting, no incinerating or landfilling of toxic materials.

It’s a bit sad how vague their page is…when you compare it to other companies it seems so obvious how lame they are.  I wonder how many companies out there are looking deeper into their e-waste recyclers as a result of this incident…