July 31, 2012

Another View: Waste-to-energy plant plays important environmental role

Ecomaine's incinerator has technology for clean burning, and reduces pressure on landfills.

By Kevin H. Roche

I am writing in response to the Maine Voices article of July 21 to clarify the role of incinerators, like ecomaine's, that burn trash to make electricity (called waste-to-energy plants).

The state estimates that most individuals produce about 7.3 pounds of waste every day; it is that waste which we, the public, generate that contains many pollutants. Contrary to the article and unlike old incinerators, today's waste-to-energy plants do not "spew" those contaminants into the air.

Ecomaine's waste-to-energy plant plays an important and environmentally positive role in the state's hierarchy of waste management (reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, waste-to-energy and, then, landfill). It has state-of-the-art air pollution controls to reduce nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide and an activated carbon injection system to remove more than 94 percent of mercury, dioxin and furan from flue gasses. Our scrubber system neutralizes acid flue gases, such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride, and our electrostatic precipitators remove more than 98 percent of particulate. Waste-to-energy is not the perfect solution, but it's much better than storing non-recyclable trash in a landfill for future generations.

Ecomaine is a strong advocate for the waste management hierarchy and we actively support "reduce, reuse and recycle" through our continuous public educational efforts and through our single-sort recycling facility. However, there are some waste materials that can't be recycled.

Thanks to ecomaine's waste-to-energy plant, non-recyclable waste can become fuel to generate electricity and the resulting ash takes just one-tenth the amount of storage space as raw trash in a landfill. In addition to requiring less storage space, ash is much more chemically stable and much less harmful to the environment.

At ecomaine, we are proud of our integrated approach that makes recycling a priority and puts waste-to-energy ahead of storing waste in a landfill.

Kevin H. Roche of Standish is general manager of ecomaine, the waste-to-energy facility in Portland.

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