According to the Technical Report published by The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in February 2009, on “WASTE GASIFICATION – IMPACTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH”, despite the appeal of gasification of landfill waste, it still has the following environmental problems associated with it, just as incineration does:
- Diversion of waste from composting and recycling
- Air pollution
- Water pollution
- Disposal of ash and other by-products
- Large amounts of water for cooling purposes
- Health, safety, and odor impacts
- Disincentives for waste reduction
We will focus on the diversion of waste from composting and recycling. Because of the relative simplicity of the gasification system, most waste processors will not be inclined to separate the compostable and recyclable materials from the stream.
In fact, for the gasification process to be most effective, it requires organic material, the materials best suited for composting. Paper, cardboard, wood, yard waste and food scraps comprise 60% of the solid waste fed into these systems.
In addition, the paper is also valuable as a recyclable material. Other materials, such as aluminum, steel, glass and plastics are easily recyclable if taken out of the waste stream before feeding into the gasification process.
This gas provides only 25% of the heat content of natural gas, so the benefits are less than desired as an alternative fuel source. If the recyclables are not removed, the original energy used to make the virgin materials is lost in the gasification process for a 25% payback and these materials end up in the gasification process slag, where they are unrecoverable.
Gasification of solid waste materials from landfills does not justify the return of energy provided, unless a strong program is in place for recycling with penalties for disposing of recyclables into the landfill.
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Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.