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Wasting options; State errs in keeping WTE hold.

COLUMN: In our opinion

The Patrick administration's decision Friday to maintain a 20-year-old moratorium on the construction or expansion of waste-to-energy facilities is a disappointing reflection of either/or thinking that will leave Massachusetts with fewer options than it should have in its battle to reduce, recycle and reuse.

We do welcome state environmental officials' declaration that recycling will receive greater emphasis in the revised solid waste plan due out next year. However, while the state promises to help communities improve recycling rates, it ought also to recognize that those rates have stagnated in recent years. The combination of human nature and fluctuating markets for materials suggests that some municipal waste will be with us for the foreseeable future. Zero waste is a fine goal, but not one that any country has achieved.

The environmentalists who cheered Friday's decision are certainly correct when they point out that WTE plants emit toxins and carbon dioxide. But since 1990, WTE facilities have cut 90 percent or more of the major pollutants they emit. Moreover, placing a ton of solid waste in a landfill means emitting about 33 percent more greenhouse gases than are emitted by incinerating that same ton of waste - and without producing any electricity.

Finally, continuing to ship some municipal waste out-of-state is not a coherent policy, but NIMBYism raised to the state level.

Environmentalists and state officials who continue to view WTE as the enemy should take note that Denmark - currently hosting the U.N. climate conference - is a world leader in recycling and WTE technology. The Danes recycle approximately two-thirds of their solid waste, incinerate just over a quarter while producing electricity, and put the rest in landfills. Now there's something we really could learn from Copenhagen.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 15, 2009
Words:289
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