Landfilling is all
but sustainable. All landfills leak (sooner or later),
while releasing at least 50% (even at best practices) of the
hazardous greenhouse gas methane which is 21 times as potent
as CO2. Today’s landfill fees will only cover day to day
operations. In Europe the landfill fees are two to ten
times as high as in the US so future generations are not
overly burdened by the legacy we leave them with. Often
these fees are supported by taxes posed on each ton disposed
of in a landfill.
Recycling® is not designed to inhibit or even reduce recycling
nor is it an excuse to continue or foster our waste management
practices which don’t favor waste reduction and producer
responsibility. It was designed to deliver the best
available technology contributing significantly to climate
protection in Germany, Europe and worldwide. MVR, WRSI’s
state of the art model facility successfully operating in
Hamburg, Germany since 1999 is fully endorsed by the European
Union and the German Green Party and serves as their model
facility as it utilizes all products created in the process
with zero landfilling.
Implementing the vision of
the 1992 world summit of Rio on sustainable
èClosed Substance Cycle and
Waste Management Act (CSC-/WMA) of 1996 in Germany (China:
First priority now on
substitution of resources (raw materials for production or
secondary fuels for energy; priority should be given to the
more environmentally friendly
Recycling must be
environmentally sound, economically reasonable and socially
Disposal of wastes only, if
recycling or recovery is not possible
of industry, policy makers and environmental groups as well as
the general public are of fundamental importance to get this
accomplished as it is a difficult task:
Many end-of-life products
cannot be or are not recycled presently
Consumers or waste management
companies have little chances to improve this
Only the producer can change his products
make them recyclable
Driving force should be
competition and market
Therefore: internalisation of
external costs into prices
Product responsibility laid
down in the CSC-/WMA
Implementation by legal
ordinances, voluntary agreements and some individual
For example the guiding
principals for packaging materials in Germany
German Packaging Ordinance from 1991
Responsibility for producer, filler or
retailer to take back and recycle (extended producer
Establishment of separate collection
and recycling systems by industry
For sales packaging from households
and similar sources: Dual System with Green Dot label (at the
beginning a monopolistic system)
Now growing competition by alternative
Minimum quotas between 60 and 75% for
all packaging materials (achieved, even for
But, not all waste can be recycled or recovered;
at least not presently!
What should we do with the remaining residual
Why landfill of not recyclable wastes is not a
Mixed waste contains organic as well
as hazardous substances:
Production of landfill gas (only 50%
can be collected and treated; the remaining 50% are a hazard
Production of leachate (long term
collection and treatment is necessary – which is
Engineered barriers will not work for
ever but fail in ???
Landfill shifts problems to the future
Remediation of old landfills may be
necessary (problem for future generations) – but how?
On the long term, landfill is the most
expensive „solution“ and the contrary of sustainability
Wastes must be treated before
Organic substances have to be
Soluble hazardous substances have to
be destroyed or extracted or converted into stable
Thermal treatment destroys organic
Thermal treatment extracts soluble
substances or transfers them into stable
(alternative to incineration) needs thermal treatment for high
substitution of energy
Proper Waste Management
contributes to sustainable
Recycling avoids negative
impact to the environment and saves resources (the use of BAT
will avoid sham recycling)
No land filling of untreated
wastes opens the way for further savings of resources
Energy recovery (waste to
energy) or mechanical-biological treatment contributes to
substitution of primary resources: raw materials for
production and fossil fuel for power
Reduction of CO2 emissions
contributes to climate protection
With those principals in mind we feel
comfortable moving forward to pursue the non-recyclable, non
avoidable waste stream by replacing landfilling with Thermal
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Key Facts & Benefits
Much is done to protect wildlife, marine life and citizens. However, even at best efforts not all municipal solid waste (MSW) can be avoided or recycled. In keeping with one’s Cities and/or Counties environmental stewardship focus, the remaining MSW can not be landfilled but should be disposed of through Waste to Energy or Thermal Recycling®. Here are the reasons why:
- WTE serves over 300,000,000 people worldwide with over 600 facilities
- WTE facilities currently power over 2 million homes in the U.S.
- WTE serves two key public needs: Environmentally sound, reliable solid waste disposal and considered a clean, reliable and renewable source of energy
- WTE reduces our dependency on foreign resources such as oil and natural gas
- WTE is a necessity in a sustainable society offering significant economic benefits today and most of all for future generations vs. landfilling.
- WTE significantly reduces greenhouse gases (GHG). For every two tons of MSW disposed of in WTE versus landfilling, GHG is reduced by one ton. Current U.S. WTE facilities reduce CO2 by 33 million metric tons annually.
- WTE’s release of dioxin and furans is not detectable thus no longer a threat.
- WTE communities recycling rates are almost 20% higher than non-WTE communities.
- WTE boosts the local economy by offering significantly more local construction, management and operation jobs than, for example, a rail transfer station
- WTE is recognized by the EPA, DOE and many other organizations as a cleaner source of energy than energy produced by even natural gas.
- WTE enables local government to retain control over the waste management system used by the community
- WTE, unlike even the most sophisticated landfills, does not leak any elements into the ground such as heavy metals and dioxins, which have serious affects on our health.
- WTE has become the chosen method in many countries replacing landfilling.
- WTE “smokestacks” emit significantly less harmful emissions than even the most sophisticated landfills…Thermal Recycling (TR), the most advanced WTE technology available, emits even less emissions than that
- TR facilities vs. landfills are monitored 24/7 for any and all emissions by the EPA and all other applicable agencies through a direct data link
- TR facilities have an internal vacuum system with the result that there are no emissions other than the ones from the “smokestack”.
- TR facilities are absolutely quiet and do not smell. The only recognizable noise comes from the delivery trucks
- TR process produces commercial end-products (ferrous and non-ferrous metals, gypsum, HCL, salts, and bottom ash/slag used in construction) resulting in zero landfilling!
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Waste management practices
Operation of Waste to Energy (WTE) facilities for waste management can reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill or with WRSI’s technological advances turn waste into marketable end products such as slag (bottom ash), hydrochloric acid (HCL @ 30%), gypsum (purer than natural gypsum), non-ferrous and ferrous metals for recycling, and salts for industrial use.
Today, WTE facilities (particularly large ones) are used for generating electricity or provide energy in other ways such as generating steam for heat. In the 1980’s significant amount of energy was lost due to "scrubbers", and other methods used to clean up exhaust. Today, with the technological advances, specifically from facilities such as the WRSI’s MVR model facility, the energy harvest has improved significantly. 4 tons of waste equal 1 ton of oil and 3 tons of waste equal 1 ton of coal. About one quarter of the waste input remains as bottom ash or slag. In the US a common practice is to combine the bottom ash with the boiler and fly ash and this is sent to a landfill. Bottom ash/slag, however, is too valuable to be landfilled. Through the technological advances by MVR a more economical way of dealing with the bottom ash/slag is utilized For more detailed information please view the following papers:
With improved technology WTE facilities not only destroy harmful chemicals but offer a viable alternative to the outdated approach of landfilling.
Despite competition between WTE and landfills there is enough evidence that supports the economics, as well as the environmental compatibility, of WTE over landfilling. The majority of the evidence comes from countries such as Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Japan, etc. where higher environmental concerns mandated the development of WTE. Out of this necessity these and other countries have studied the impacts of WTE thoroughly.
To establish a guideline, elaborate testing of landfilling, WTE, and other methods of municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal were conducted. The results show WTE as the most environmentally sound and economic solution.
As a result of studies like these Germany is banning landfilling of untreated MSW starting January 1st, 2005 and instead will utilize WTE and it's benefits - the European Union has a similar plan that goes in effect 2010.
So why is the United States so far behind Europe? Is it because of misinformed opposition groups that hang onto outdated data from the early days of WTE prior to EPA regulations? Or, is it that we have so much land available that we just find new unpopulated areas and dig new holes? Or, is it simply that we are waiting for the miraculous solution that will cost next to nothing and will magically turn waste into gold?
We have to face the facts and address the problem of MSW in a manner that does not leave it for future generations to deal with it! It is our problem and we are responsible for the waste that we create today and also, unfortunately for the waste of past generations.
Through what the City of Los Angeles calls Thermal Recycling WRSI offers a viable solution today!
When studying the best methods for managing MSW and similar wastes it is important to keep in mind that:
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- A community (city, county etc), as
a generator of waste, cannot shed or contract away its
responsibility for air or water pollution impacts associated
with the landfilling of solid waste.
- After reduction and recycling, WTE
is the next step in sustainable management of solid waste
disposal. Landfilling is not the final disposal of Municipal
Solid Waste (MSW), but is storage for management by future
- WTE is environmentally superior to landfilling. The EPA states that WTE is a "clean, reliable, renewable source of energy…these plants produce…electricity with less environmental impact than almost any other source of electricity".
- The economics of WTE – revenue from
energy and recovered materials – will have a favorable
impact on operating costs.
- WTE is an energy generator --- Landfilling is an energy consumer.
- Long haul (rail) transport of solid
waste creates emissions and can tax already over-burdened
regional rail systems.
- Fuel consumed for transportation
and burial of waste will only go up and buried waste will
continue to burden the environment.
- WTE destroys the toxic organic
contaminants in the waste stream…Landfilling does not.
- WTE operations costs are
sustainable for the long term: landfilling costs are ever
increasing with the amounts added to the landfill i.e. for
every ton of waste landfilled, more leachate and methane is
generated and requires management.
- Most recyclables have an
end-of-life as well. At some point these recyclables become
"un-recyclable" and have to be disposed of.
- Some recycling processes add
dangerous chemicals to the environment. Opponents to new
generation WTE technology have no viable alternative and are
instead continuously burdening the environment and health of
- Thermal Recycling, the next step in WTE, is the most viable solution!
Frequntly Asked Questions
Q: What makes Thermal Recycling of WRSI unlike any other Waste to Energy facility currently in operation in the United States of America?
A: WRSI combines the most stringent environmental standards while providing an economical solution to the treatment of municipal solid waste through the production of revenue generating end products and the efficient use of steam that is generated in the process.