New Incineration Techniques

In addition to landfills, another waste management method that has been improved by technological advances is incineration, or the burning of garbage. Incineration-based processes for waste disposal have long been a subject of intense debate because of the harmful pollutants that can be emitted into the air, land, and water. The biggest concern about incineration is that it can produce significant amounts of dioxin and furan—substances known to cause cancer and other serious health hazards. And although incineration of wastes can sometimes produce energy, in the absence of good technology and strict controls, this process can release more harmful emissions than burning coal, one of the most polluting fossil fuels. As Canadian environmentalist Peter Tabuns warns, "When you burn garbage, you're putting out 33 per cent more carbon dioxide than when you burn coal, and the United Nations environment program says that 60 per cent of the world's dioxins come from burning garbage."51

Unlike older incinerators, however, new state-of-the-art incinerators substantially reduce the amount of leftover toxins to tiny quantities measurable only in picograms—each only a millionth of a millionth of a gram. To accomplish this feat, high-tech incinerators burn wastes at very high temperatures—between

An incineration plant in Tokyo, Japan, is shown here. Advanced technology has helped with incineration-based processes by reducing the amount of toxins and turning them into harmless solids.

1,832°F and 2,192°F (1,000°C and 1,200°C)—to reduce their toxic chemical components to harmless solids that can be used for road building or similar projects. In addition, technologies such as combustion chambers, rotation washers, condensation filters, and enormous catalytic converters are often used to remove toxins from gases created from the incineration process. This system, according to supporters, provides an efficient and green way to dispose of massive amounts of human waste.

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