In a recent Times Record articles (March 23 and April 7) and a letter to the editor about Brunswick’s Graham Road landfill closure it has been stated that “choosing ecomaine could effectively lower the town’s municipal net greenhouse gas emissions by around 80%.” The article seemed to imply that incineration is always preferable to landfilling from a climate perspective. This is not true.

The comparison is most likely a reference to Brunswick’s former practice of landfilling its waste at the antiquated Graham Road facility, which lacks the landfill gas collection infrastructure of a modern landfill.

The reality is that the estimated levels of emissions per ton of waste from the state’s incinerators are virtually the same as the levels of emissions at modern facilities such as the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.

One might think that burning waste is better than landfilling because of volume reduction. It certainly seems to get rid of waste very quickly. Yet, when looking at a long-term picture, quick “out of sight, out of mind” solutions are not always the best. Technology and engineering advances have made modern landfills more environmentally-friendly.

Burning fossil-fuel based material like plastics in an incinerator removes them from the supply chain, and contributes directly and immediately to greenhouse gases.

The EPA recognizes that landfills with energy recovery are on par with waste-to-energy facilities, though Maine has yet to adopt this more modern hierarchy opting instead to base policy on one that is over 30 years old.

Recent studies show modern landfills with energy recovery emit substantially fewer greenhouse gases per ton of waste than incinerators. Those gases are emitted over time, not instantaneously as with an incinerator, buying us time to find new ways to reduce other emissions and combat climate change on a global level.

Our focus should always be on reducing society’s waste and then recovering and recycling as much as we can. For any waste that is left, we should remain open to the lowest carbon disposal technologies — likely a mix of both modern landfills and incinerators — that best meet our needs for environmental and economic sustainability.

Shelby D Wright,
Casella Waste Systems

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