The NYTimes has an article on trash-burning energy plants that convert waste it into heat and electricity so efficiently that residential fireplaces and barbecues produce more air pollutants than the plants themselves. They also reduce energy costs, reduce dependence on foreign gas and oil, and cause less harm to the environment than landfills. Their presence in communities has even raised property values.
And they're popular in Europe. Here's why America doesn't want them:
Matt Hale, director of the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, said the reasons that waste-to-energy plants had not caught on nationally were the relative abundance of cheap landfills in a large country, opposition from state officials who feared the plants could undercut recycling programs and a “negative public perception.” In the United States, individual states and municipalities generally decide what method to use to get rid of their waste.
Still, a 2009 study by the E.P.A. and North Carolina State University scientists came down strongly in favor of waste-to-energy plants over landfills as the most environmentally friendly destination for urban waste that cannot be recycled. Embracing the technology would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution, but also yield copious electricity, it said.
Yet powerful environmental groups have fought the concept passionately. “Incinerators are really the devil,” said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Meanwhile, Seattle freights its garbage to Oregon where it rots and produces methane, then the city buys the methane back to use as an energy source. According to a 2009 EPA study, however, these landfills "churn out roughly twice as much climate-warming gas as waste-to-energy plants do." Not only do the European plants produce less air pollutants than methane-emitting landfills, they also produce nine times the energy.
Fuck Oregon. We should ship our trash to Europe instead.