Is It Better to Burn Garbage or to Turn It into Unhealthy Products? Incineration versus Chemical Recycling

Essay, 2012

12 Pages, Grade: 1


My research method is studying different data sources and discovering new and detailed information. My research units are various books, journals, newspapers and websites that I could reach. I read all sources I encountered and sampled their content shortly and briefly in my research paper. The most important difference of my research from other works is the fact that I did not face any other study that contains the direct relationship between waste recycle and waste incineration. This is not a new problem; it came out almost when the production of goods from plastics, glass, metal and paper begun. It’s very important and it has a large impact on the next generations’ life. According to my source-study, nearly all sources talk about these problems, about their advantages and disadvantages separately. But I could see no source that compares these problem topics. Therefore, I tried to do this comparison in my work and make my work different from the preceding ones.

In my opinion, it is better to start this research by looking at their root: The 4R’s hierarchy. It’s a waste management hierarchy that helps to remind us some actions we can do to prevent and reduce our wastes. This hierarchy contains four various actions and they are arranged according to their importance: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. The closer we get to the top of the list (from ‘recover’ to ‘reduce’), the less we create waste and the less we disturb the environment with logging, mining activities, the excessive use of water, etc. Applying the 4Rs means questioning our daily acts, the things we do mechanically, without thinking of the consequences, without thinking of the environment, without thinking of our grandchildren. Applying the 4Rs means consuming intelligently, thus making substantial savings in terms of money, time, pollution, waste and energy (FNQL, SDI: 3).

The 4R’s Principles

Nowadays, most of the companies and organizations are moving towards waste prevention by changing the way they manage their waste. Public pressures, regulations, landfill shortages and other problems force them to this action. They are slowly understanding how small changes make big differences to their waste bills. So, let’s see how these principles function in details.

Reduce is also known as “Prevention” and “Avoidance”. Waste prevention means purchasing and throwing away less waste. This is the best option among hierarchy’s four options. We, of course, can’t fully eliminate the waste generation, but we still have opportunity to decrease the amount of waste materials created. Waste reduction principle has many advantages to a person or society, such as money economy, less garbage around, better health, etc. There are many ways to avoid too much waste and they are very easy to be used in daily life. For instance, we can:

- Use public libraries instead of purchasing every book we need one by one.
- Avoid single-use products: plastic dishes, batteries, napkins, cling films,…
- Ask ourselves before buying if that product is a “want” or a “need”.
- Avoid plastic bags and get reusable shopping bags instead.
- Try to repair any damaged good and keep on using it, etc.

Waste reduction depends on looking at waste in a different way: not as something that inevitably must be treated and disposed of but as what it really is – a loss of valuable process materials, the reduction of which can have significant economic benefits. Thus, waste reduction is not an environmental issue, but a competitive one (Freeman, 1995: 19).

In fact, reusing waste means giving any product a second life, that’s using it more than once by repairing, by donating it to charity groups or by selling. All these ways, indeed, reduce the waste amount. It’s possible to use a good either for the same purpose or for different purposes. There are perfect reasons to reuse any product, if possible. For example, by reusing a good we can:

- Decrease our consumption amount and unnecessary spending;
- Reduce the waste production rate;
- Do something good and useful and make happy people around;
- Save the resources and raw materials of environment and the environment itself, etc.

“Reuse helps reduce not only the amount of your garbage cans, but also the amount of your recycling bin. It’s simple, economic and available to all of us to reuse! All you need is to extend the life of a product by using it more than once or to be creative by giving it a second life. By buying used, recycled and recyclable products or products with recycled material, you reuse something that has already been consumed or used” (FNQLSDI: Reuse, 4).

Recycling is the recovery and reuse of products that would otherwise be thrown away. In many cases it is simply separating such items as scrap metals from plastics and then reusing them or returning them to their suppliers for processing and reuse, as Ray (1995: 358) says. Recycling returns different materials to the production cycle and, by the way, preserves natural resources. Some materials, like aluminum, glass, paper and plastic can be recycled many times. In addition, recycling generates a big number of environmental, financial, and social benefits. Products can be recycled in various ways and for various purposes.

Composition is one of these ways. It’s the production of materials that can be used for landfill covering, landscaping or soil conditioning. It’s a process in which the organic portion of Municipal Solid Waste is allowed to decompose under carefully controlled conditions. Composting can stabilize the waste and produce an end product that may be recycled for beneficial use (Nathanson, 1997: 286).

Incineration is another recycling way. It’s “a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials. […] Incineration of waste materials converts the waste into ash, flue gas, and heat” (Wikipedia 2012, cf. Bryson 2012: 91). Generally, wastes are burned in special closed containers called “Incinerators”, so that energy can be produced from the heat of burning wastes. In these containers, about 95% of wastes disappear and approximately about 5% of them remain as ashes. That’s a very good idea, because about 95% of a land (where garbage are normally placed at) can be saved and used for other purposes.

Finally, as everybody knows, recycling is a process in which a product goes through many chemical and mechanical processes and changes its form in order to be used in production of new goods. Recycling wastes is recommended only when it’s not possible to reduce or reuse waste materials.

“Most of the materials thrown in the garbage can be used and processed in ways other than being destroyed. This is what is called recovering. Reusing, recycling and composting are the most frequently used methods for recovering waste. When it’s not possible to reuse or recycle objects—such as dead batteries, ink cartridges or cell phones, which all contain toxic elements labeled hazardous household waste—there is one last option before throwing them away: scrap dealers, recycling workers and recoverers” (FNQLSDI: Recover, 3).

In other words, to “recover” means to convert waste materials into resources, such as heat, electricity, fuel, etc. Recovery helps to avoid the rate of about 90% of wastes that are going to landfills. Briefly, waste recovery means using wastes to achieve an environmentally beneficial outcome instead of using non-waste products.

The Problem: To Burn or To Recycle a Waste?

Now, let’s compare these two processes: Waste recycling and waste incineration. Which one is more economic, more logical and healthier for the environment?

“Incinerating municipal solid waste […] in an energy-from-waste […] facility recovers a portion of each waste material’s heat value as electrical energy. Recycling waste materials conserves energy by replacing virgin raw materials in manufacturing products, thereby reducing acquisition of virgin materials from the natural environment. At the same time, recycling removes materials, some of which have high intrinsic energy content (e.g., paper and plastic), from the stream of [municipal solid waste] available for [energy-from-waste] incineration” (Morris; 1996: 277).

As far as we concerned, wastes are placed into big containers called ‘incinerators’ and are burned by using different chemicals. As a result, just about 5% of waste is remained after the burning process that are, of course, ashes. It seems to be a convenient way to mask the waste problem in the industry today. But a thing what many people do not realize is the fact that these ashes contain extremely dangerous elements. These ashes contain heavy metals, unburned chemicals and new chemicals that were produced during incineration process. And, finally, they are dumped in the environment or buried in landfills.

Existing data and studies show that hazardous wastes that are burned will lead to release three types of very dangerous environment pollutants:

1.Heavy metals: Usually, metals aren’t burned during the incineration process and they are released into the environment in more dangerous forms. Some people soothe themselves thinking about pollution control equipments in incinerators. But, unfortunately, these equipments can remove just some metal contents from stack gases. However, these heavy metals removed from gas do not disappear. They are mixed with the ashes and ashes are landfilled.
2. Unburned toxic chemicals: No incineration process works 100% efficiently. This process either releases toxic metals that didn’t burn or lets them mix with the ashes. As a conclusion, these toxic elements affect environment in any way.
3. New pollutants – dioxins: This is the most dangerous disadvantage of waste incineration process. New toxic substances are created when partially burned waste chemicals attach to, or recombine with incinerator devices. During this ‘mixing’ process, thousands of new substances are created and most of them are more hasardouz than the original waste.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Is It Better to Burn Garbage or to Turn It into Unhealthy Products? Incineration versus Chemical Recycling
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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The author of this text is not a native speaker of English. Please excuse any linguistic mistakes.
air, pollution, garbage, burning goods, recycle, reuse
Quote paper
Husravi Juma (Author), 2012, Is It Better to Burn Garbage or to Turn It into Unhealthy Products? Incineration versus Chemical Recycling, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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