Municipal Refuse: Is Burning Best?

by Kneeland A. Godfrey, Jr., Sr. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1985, Vol. 55, Issue 4, Pg. 53-56

Document Type: Feature article

Errata: (See full record)


Communities are increasingly worried about polluting groundwater, and it is increasingly difficult to get permits to start new landfills. For these reasons, there is a trend back to municipal incinerators. Municipalities show preference for the 30 year old mass burn incinerators, updated largely by addition of better stack-gas cleaning systems, over the innovative designs of the 1970s, many of which fail to work reliably or cost-effectively. In a growing share of the cases, the systems contractor operates the plant, and in some cases owns part or all of it. Dioxin, highly toxic, was detected in the stack emissions of several municipal incinerators, causing great concern four years ago; but recent risk assessment have concluded the dioxin constitutes an insignificant health risk. To reduce the refuse reaching municipal incinerators, New Jersey is taking the national lead in encouraging (perhaps soon mandating) that communities source-separate up to 25% of the tonnage—newspaper, cans and plastic containers, yard waste, etc. There is debate as to whether providing market incentives or mandating source separation is preferable.

Subject Headings: Incineration | Health hazards | Local government | Groundwater pollution | Chemical compounds | Municipal wastes | Solid wastes | Permits | New Jersey | United States

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