In his most recent Recycle Bin commentaries (“Waste to energy safety,” The Times Record, Sept. 14), Harry Hopcroft continues to assert that burning trash is a more environmentally friendly solution than landfilling it. It’s an opinion that is held by some but has been disproven by science and even the staunchest zero waste advocates.

And it is not supported by the EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM) that Mr. Hopcroft references.

When Mr. Hopcroft positions flaring landfill gas as “just making more CO2” he fails to mention that the flaring of gas at our Juniper Ridge facility reduces the global warming impact from over 25 down to 1. That is significant.

And yes, Mr. Hopcroft is correct in pointing out that incinerators generate more energy per ton of waste than a landfill-gas-to-energy facility, but that is only because incinerators recover more energy value by burning plastic, an energy-dense fossil fuel, and emitting significant amounts of CO2 because of it.

Landfill-gas-to-energy facilities, by contrast, generate power only from the decomposition of biogenic waste such as food and yard waste. The benefit here is that the CO2 that is produced by decomposing plastic in a landfill is sequestered, and CO2 sequestration is a significant component in calculating net climate benefit.

Additionally, the materials that go into an incinerator end up in a landfill as ash, so we do not eliminate the need for a landfill simply by burning our waste.

What WARM tells us is that the Juniper Ridge Landfill with a flare emits less greenhouse gases (GHG) per ton of waste than incineration in Maine. With the addition of the proposed Renewable Natural Gas facility at Juniper Ridge, like the one we are building at our North Country Environmental Services facility, that gap will widen considerably.

According to that same EPA WARM model, recycling one ton of mixed recyclables reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 2.85 metric tons. So, the best way to protect the climate is to focus on waste reduction and improve recycling rates.

Here in Maine, we have determined that the best way to handle our waste is utilize some combination of disposal facilities. And, as disposal capacity becomes scarcer across the Northeast, we need to make sure that we have access to safely dispose of waste material.

It does very little to use our energy agonizing over what the best method of disposal is, when our collective resources and talents could be spent coming up with long term solutions for waste reduction and recycling.

Mainers are working at many levels to advance waste reduction and recycling, let’s not get distracted. We’re proud to service the Town of Brunswick and we look forward to continuing our collaborative work with the Public Works team to improve the community’s recycling logistics, performance, and climate impacts.

Shelby D Wright is the eastern region manager of engagement for Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: