Can trash safely be burned?

I was just wondering how much effort goes into finding ways to safely burn household and even most commercial trash. It seems the footprint is going to be substantial anyway we do it.

I would wager that once you’re done recycling everything that can be recycled and composting everything that can be composted, you end up with a bunch of unrecyclable plastic containers and mixed-material trash (metal lids with plastic inserts, plastic twist-ties with metal wires, elasticized cloth) which, when burned, give off some fairly toxic chemicals, but when buried in a landfill, mostly just sit there.

Burning unrecyclable and uncompostable trash on the scale of a large city would probably be markedly unhealthy for people now; it remains to be seen whether burying it in a landfill is unhealthy for future generations but hey, that’s their problem. :rolleyes:

They tried to set up something to burn trash in Albany; the environmental issues were daunting. The ashes, for instance, are just concentrated toxic chemicals and metals that have to be disposed of, and, of course, the smoke is also filled with toxins.

I believe they finally got it running for a few years, but it got shut down in 1994; the smoke was drifting into some upper class neighborhoods.

Do you mean on a individual guy-in-a-backyard level, or an industrial ‘take the whole city’s garbage’ level?

On the industrial level, there are a fair amount of garbage burning facilities around. The owners usually call them ‘Waste To Energy’ facilities; they’re more often called something like Municipal Waste Incinerators by non-interested parties.

I don’t know much about the details, but they would have a permit for their air emissions, so presumable the state or feds has been persuaded that the exhaust is safe enough once treated.

On the worker-safety level, I’ve seen a plant that separated recyclable metals etc before burning, which gave them a chance to find and remove propane tanks and other potentially explosive stuff. But most plants now chuck everything in the fire; I’m not sure how they deal with potential explosives, but evidently it works well enough because the plants are still operating.

Lots of countries have waste-to-energy incineration facilities.

Newer technology such as plasma gasification reduces emissions to almost zero, produces energy, and the waste can be used for roadways, bricks, etc.

Ninjad by Quercus.

Thats actually what I had in mind, simply burying things just doesn’t seem right to me.

From a climate change point of view, it’s better to sequester the stuff by burying it than to release the carbon into the atmosphere by burning it.

I’m not sure that’s necessarily true.

And plasma gasification plants look even cleaner, from what I can tell.