A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 April 1992


In March 1992, at a conference on municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration held in Tarragona, Spain, consultants at ITU GmbH from Oberhausen, Germany, presented the results of their studies on the formation processes of dioxins (PCDD), furans (PCDF), HCB & PCBs in state-of-the-art municipal waste incinerators. ITU did this work under contract for the German Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Federal regulations in Germany limit dioxin and furan emission from municipal waste incinerators, and other facilities that incinerate waste, to 0.1 ng I-TE/m3 (standard) (I-TE=international toxicity equivalents according to NATO/CCMS standard). ITU conducted a number of test series on different incinerators in order to identify factors relevant to the shaping of PCDD/PCDF emission levels, which they explain in their report titled: Practical concepts to minimize the emission of halogenated organic compounds from municipal solid waste incinerators, by Beyer, Rakel, et al. (For a copy of this 11-page report please send $1.50 to Waste Not .)

* Waste incineration should be regarded as primarily a waste treatment method, not an energy generating practice. Uppermost priority should be given to conditions optimal for hazard reduction, not to achieving maximum energy output.

* Mass balance. The input of PCDF was negligible in comparison to the output. The vastly higher output hints at a PCDF formation process during combustion, probably triggered by chlorinated precursors like PCB, chlorobenzenes and chlorophenols. Viewed from a mass-balance angle PCDD/PCDF appear to pass through the incineration process fairly unaffected. This assessment changes if one employs a toxicity approach. Because of a shift in the composition of PCDD/PCDF, the TE [toxicity equivalent] value of the output is two to six times higher than the respective input value.

* ITU’s findings indicate that besides substance formation during the incineration process, dioxins/furans originating from input material are passing through the plant without being affected, hence representing an important source for the incinerators’ overall emissions.

* Additions of PVC resulted in a slight but not significant increase of PCDD/PCDF in clean gas, while concentrations of chlorobenzenes, PCB and hydrogen chloride increased rapidly.

* The increase in bromine input through the waste material is accompanied not only by the expected increase of mixed-halogenated dioxins, furans, and benzenes, but in addition by an unexpected increase of their chlorinated analogues in the flue gas. This is of particular importance with regard to an expected future increase of bromine in the MWI input via brominated compounds, such as flame retardants in electronic scrap. It can be assumed, therefore, that growing inputs of electronic scrap in the waste stream will increase the PCDD/PCDF load in flue gas of waste incinerators.

* ITU analyzed emission of organic pollutants during maintenance procedures such as “soot blowing”. “Soot blowing” describes the automatically performed cleaning program for heat exchange surfaces...Taking into account that 40 minutes “soot blowing” takes place three times a day, and that this results in a three-fold increase of PCDD/PCDF loads, about 20% of the normal daily emission can be calculated to stem from this maintenance procedure. ITU recommends ultrasonic cleaning.

* Other recommendations include: Avoid carbon monoxide peaks and high oxygen peaks; a cooling section for flue gas; the use of dry scrubbers, ESP, baghouse; the injection of limestone or activated carbon; a catalytic converter to remove nitrous oxide; flue gas temperature after the boiler system should be 250_C; flue gas temperature at the ESP should be considerably below 300_C; removal of hazardous materials from the waste stream prior to incineration.

* In ITU’s report they cited the percent of residual bottom ash at a municipal waste incinerator in Berlin-Ruhleben at 35% of input material.

* Results for the distribution of PCDD/PCDF loads at a municipal waste incinerator in Bielefeld-Herford tested in 1989/1990 were: ESP residues, 58%; clean gas, 30%; waste water from wet scrubber, 8%; bottom ash, 4%.


An “essential-reading” 43-page report, available for $2.40 from: N.Y. City Comptroller’s Office, Office of Policy Management, 1 Centre St., Rm. 517, NY, NY 10007. Tel: 212-669-3747.

“The King has no clothes on!”
whispered the child in the fairy tale.
Then, and only then, were the the people and
the servants in the King’s Empire able to trust their own eyes.
So too, with Holtzman’s reports issued in January and March of 1992,
if only the the people and the servants in the King’s Empire State will read them.
Elizabeth Holtzman, as Comptroller of N.Y. City, has, with exceptional clarity and expertize, revealed the Rumpelstilkskin-like scientific shield that has defended the waste-for-profit industry in N.Y. State. Unfortunately, the shield surrounding our planet is not as well protected as the giants of our age: corporate polluters and their henchmen, the waste industry. Susan Mattei, an environmental analyst in the Comptroller’s office, has authored these two reports which has atomized, within a span of three months, the 12-year effort of NY’s Empire State to preserve waste for the polluters and profiteers of the incinerator industry. The Comptroller’s Office reports, Burn Baby Burn -issued in January 1992, together with the March release of Fire & Ice, have resulted in revealing the intellectual bankruptcy and vision-less policies of Tom Jorling’s Department of Environmental Conservation and its lapdog, the New York State Department of Health. Fire and Ice will be as lucid an educational tool for the rest of the country as it is for New Yorkers. Atmospheric scientists within the environmental community had relegated the impact of greenhouse gases, and their precursors, to oblivion when it came to examining municipal waste incineration. The Comptroller of New York City has begun the discussion. The energy recovery potential of municipal waste incinerators has been a cornerstone for its proponents. But garbage burning produces significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and their precursors, per unit of energy produced as compared to coal or oil. Fire & Ice clearly shows how incineration wastes more energy than real resource recovery (recycling and composting) and how this crude technology is compounding the most dangerous environmental phenomena of our time: global warming. For an understanding of waste incineration’s role in contributing to “greenhouse gases” -carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone- and how alternative methods of waste management, conversely, would reduce such emissions, please read Fire & Ice. (EC)


IJC’s report Air Quality in the Detroit-Windsor/Port Huran-Sarnia Region issued in February 1992, summarized that “[s]ufficient information exists on airborne toxic chemicals in the region to conclude that there is a significant public health issue which requires the immediate implementation of additional air emission abatement and preventive measures.” The IJC’s recommendations on incineration are: *Incineration facilities in the region be phased out of use or required to eliminate the production and emission of dioxins, furans, PCBs and inorganic materials, especially mercury and hydrochloric acid. *Uniform state and provincial requirements be established for incineration facilities in the Reference region based on the principles of zero discharge of persistent toxic substances. *Governments monitor incinerator emissions for phosgene gas when chlorinated organic materials are being incinerated and institute effective controls to prevent the production of this gas.” The IJC identified 1,678 incinerators in 4 Michigan counties (Macomb,Oakland, St.Clair and Wayne), the majority of which are small units. “Among the most serious toxic pollutants emitted by incinerators are dioxins, furans, PCBs, hydrochloric acid, mercury and other metals. Incineration of contaminated municipal sludges are quite often a source of PCBs; however, because levels of PCBs in the sludges are below those regulated as hazardous waste, treatment technology to control emissions of PCBs is not usually present. The large volumes of sludges being incinerated can result in potentially dangerous levels of PCBs emitted into the atmosphere. In addition to the above pollutants, the Commission recognizes the increasing concern over the production and emission of phosgene, a highly toxic compound that can result from high temperature reaction between carbon monoxide and hydrochloric acid during the combustion of chlorinated organics. The presence of phosgene warns of technical problems with the incinerator process.” This 48-page report is available free from the IJC: Tel: 202-673-6222.

WASTE NOT # 192 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.