A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 January 15, 1993

In 1990 Pollution Probe of Toronto, Canada, commissioned Work on Waste USA to do a series of reports commenting on parts of the Province’s energy utility’s (Ontario Hydro) proposed 25-year energy plan. WOW-USA contracted out one of the three reports to Sound Resource Management Group. The reports, reviewed below, were submitted in January 1993.


Available from Waste Not: 33 pages. $7 for current subscribers. $14 for non-subscribers.

This report, authored by the editors of Waste Not, is a concise, up-to-date and expanded analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration. This report will prove of significant importance to individuals and communities engaged in incinerator battles. The report discusses:

The Advantages and Disadvantages of MSW Incineration

The Building History of Trash Incineration in the U.S. and Europe

Incineration is not the Proven Technology it is Claimed To Be

The Use of Health Risk Assessment to Placate the Public’s Fears about Incinerator Emissions

The Better Alternative and Avoiding the Trap of “Integrated Waste Management”

We would like to share the generic health risk assessment we produced in this report, that is guaranteed to save communities at least $50,000 in consultant’s fees. It is one sentence long. It reads: No risk is acceptable if it is avoidable. Though much of the information in the report has been discussed in Waste Not, it does include new information, such as the timeline of the construction of trash incinerators in the U.S. from 1963 to 1991 as compared to six European countries for the same years. What we learned was: in the early 80’s American communities were lured into building incinerators on the basis of how successful this technology was in Europe. In reality, very few incinerators were built in Europe from 1979 to 1991 and only six European countries burn more than 30% of their waste.

Incineration Compared to Energy and Waste Management Alternatives:
A Full Environmental Costs Analysis.
By Christopher Neurath for Work on Waste USA.
Available from Waste Not : 45 pages. $7 for current subscribers. $14 for non-subscribers.

The report addresses the Province of Ontario, Canada, but results are broadly applicable to all areas of North America. This report made quantitative estimates of the overall environmental costs of: incineration, composting, recycling, and waste reduction; and of energy production and energy conservation. Also estimated were the benefits of avoided production of materials due to recycling with the conventional costs of each solid waste management method or energy method to arrive at the overall costs/benefits to society of each technology. The report also compared three mixes of the waste management methods which were representative of three possible Ontario-wide scenarios. The Report’s Findings:

1. “State-of-the-art” incinerators emit more pollution per kilowatt hour (kWh) than natural gas or even coal fired fueled power plants for virtually all pollutants.

2. When pollutant emissions are weighed by how harmful that pollutant is to health and the environment, incineration turns out to be about 2000% more damaging than natural gas per kWh and about 30% more damaging than coal per kWh.

3. Incineration has higher overall costs (environmental plus conventional) to society than: new lined landfills, centralized composting of organics, backyard composting, recycling, or reduction.

4. Incineration also has higher conventional costs than all the above alternatives.

5. Based on recent estimates of environmental and conventional costs/benefits, the current waste management hierarchy in Ontario is rational and if followed, can provide Ontario society with the lowest overall net costs. Our results of net costs for each method: (a.) Reduction yields a net benefit to society of $400 Canadian per metric tonne. (b.) Recycling yields a net benefit to society of $75/tonne. (c.) Backyard composting has a net cost of $45/tonne. (d.) Centralized composting of source-separated organics costs society $150/tonne. (e.) New style lined landfill costs society $220/tonne. (f.) “State-of-the-art” incineration costs society $250/tonne.

6. Based on the above findings, one can conclude it is never economically or environmentally beneficial to include any incineration in a region’s waste management system.

Recycling Versus Incineration: An Energy Conservation Analysis.

by Jeffrey Morris and Diana Canzoneri of Sound Resource Management Group, Inc.

Available for $35 from SRMG, 5025 California Avenue, SW, Seattle, WA 98136. Tel: 206-932-3404.

Though Sound Resource Management Group’s (SRMG) paper is a critique of the Canadian utility’s, Ontario Hydro, 25-year Energy Plan, currently under adjudicatory review, the information in this report is an excellent resource for every community. Prior to the law banning municipal waste incineration, Ontario Hydro produced a 25-year energy plan that included “plans by the year 2000 to obtain over 90 Megawatts (MW) of generation capacity from incineration of at least 30% of Ontario’s metropolitan area municipal solid waste (MSW) in large scale energy-from-waste (EFW) facilities.” The SRMG report demonstrates EFW is not an efficient source of electrical power. “More energy can be conserved by recycling than can be generated by incinerating the various materials which make up Ontario’s municipal solid waste. On average, we estimate that recycling saves three to five times as much energy as is produced by incinerating MSW. Furthermore, energy conserved by manufacturing with recycling materials rather than virgin materials exceeds incineration energy by enough to pay the energy costs of shipping recycled materials to very distant markets. We estimate than on average recycled waste materials can be shipped over 12,000 kilometers (km) by truck, or 54,000 km by rail, before recycling’s energy conservation savings are dissipated.”

From SRMG’s Table E-1:

Energy Conserved in Recycled Content Manufacturing Compared with Energy from Waste Incineration

Energy Conserved by Substituting Energy Generated from

Waste Stream Materials Secondary for Virgin Raw Materials MSW Incineration

Paper (MJ/MG) (MJ/MG)

Newspaper 22,398 8,444

Corrugated Cardboard 22,887 7,388

Office (Ledger & Computer Printouts) 35,242 8,233

Other Recyclable Paper 21,213 7,600


PET 85,888 21,004

HDPE 74,316 21,004

Other Containers 62,918 16,782

Film/Packaging 75,479 14,566

Other Rigid 68,878 16,782


Containers 3,212 106

Other 582 106


Aluminum Beverage Containers 256,830 739

Other Aluminum 281,231 317

Other Non-Ferrous 116,288 317

Tin and Bi-Metal Cans 22,097 739

Other Ferrous 17,857 317


Food Waste 4,215 2,744

Yard Waste 3,556 3,166

Wood Waste 6,422 7,072


Tires 32,531 14,777

Other Rubber 25,672 11,505


Cotton 42,101 7,283

Synthetic 58,292 7,283

Diapers 10,962 10,713

WASTE NOT # 224. 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.