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IPCC & TERI Promote Polluting Incineration Technology

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, December 25, 2009 | 11:52 PM

Waste Incineration Techniology Violates Kyoto Protocol

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi has announced an action plan comprising 65 specific actions to address climate change as part of the State's development policy framework by 2012, which is aligned with the country's National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Not surprisingly, the Press Note for the Release of Climate Change Agenda for Delhi 2009-12 notes that Chief Secretary (Rakesh Mehta) has prepared this agenda wherein he refers to waste to energy initiatives taken by the Delhi government. It has been claimed that the agenda is in line with the Prime MInister's National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The fact is that NAPCC is categorically refers to Biomethanation technology, a biological treatment method for waste to energy instead of the Refuse Dervied Fuel(RDF) process which is a incineration technology.

There is a flawed text in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying, that IPCC recommends it.
which reads:" Incineration

Incineration is common in the industrialized regions of Europe, Japan and the northeastern USA where space limitations, high land costs, and political opposition to locating landfills in communities limit land disposal. In developing countries, low land and labour costs, the lack of high heat value materials such as paper and plastic in the waste stream, and the high capital cost of incinerators have discouraged waste combustion as an option.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) plants create heat and electricity from burning mixed solid waste. Because of high corrosion in the boilers, the steam temperature in WTE plants is less than 400 degrees Celsius. As a result, total system efficiency of WTE plants is only between 12%–24% (Faaij et al., 1998; US EPA, 1998; Swithenbank and Nasserzadeh, 1997).

Net GHG emissions from WTE facilities are usually low and comparable to those from biomass energy systems, because electricity and heat are generated largely from photosynthetically produced paper, yard waste, and organic garbage rather than from fossil fuels. Only the combustion of fossil fuel based waste such as plastics and synthetic fabrics contribute to net GHG releases, but recycling of these materials generally produces even lower emissions."

Notably, India is a party to Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which calls for elimination POPs (Dioxins) emitting technologies like incineration. This is despite the fact that Annexure A of the Kyoto Protocol clarly says that waste incineration is a source of green house gases.

Incineration is a source of POPs like dioxins, furans, PCBs, toxic metals and other toxic particles besides greenhouse gases.

Waste incineration systems including Refuse Dervied Fuel(RDF) or waste pelletisation, pyrolysis and gasification systems) produce pollutants that are detrimental to both human health and the environment. They are expensive and do not eliminate or even adequately control toxic emissions from today's chemically complex waste. Even new incinerators release toxic metals, dioxins and acid gases. Far from eliminating the problem of landfills, waste incinerator systems produce toxic ash and other residues. They release incinerator ash into the environment, which subsequently enters the foodchain.

Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)'s waste-to-energy programme to maximise energy recovery is technologically incompatible with reducing dioxin emissions. Dioxins are lethal Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that cause irreparable environmental and health damage.

Incinerator technology intervention in the waste stream distorts waste management. Such systems rely on minimum guaranteed waste flows. They indirectly promote waste generation, whilst hindering waste prevention, reuse, composting, recycling and recycling-based community economic development. Such systems cost cities and municipalities more, and provide fewer jobs than do comprehensive recycling and composting schemes. They prohibit the development of local recycling-based industry.

Waste-to-energy projects are being promoted in manifest violation of international environmental norms. Incineration of waste also violates the Stockholm Convention on POPs which calls for improvements in waste management with the aim of stopping the open and uncontrolled burning of waste. It violates the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP's) Global Assessment on Mercury which includes measures aimed at reducing or eliminating mercury emissions from waste incineration, because, unlike other heavy metals, mercury has special properties that make it difficult to capture in many control devices. It violates the Dhaka Declaration on Waste Management adopted by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in October 2004. According to this declaration, SAARC countries cannot opt for incineration and other unproven technologies.

It also goes against national legislation and norms such as the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, according to which it is illegal to incinerate chlorinated plastics (like PVC) and waste that's been chemically treated with a chlorinated disinfectant. And it ignores the recommendations of the Supreme Court-constituted committee on waste management.

According to the 'White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan', prepared by the MoEF: "The experiences of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi, and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible in situations where the waste has a low calorific value. A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option. Considering the large quantities of waste requiring to be processed, a mechanical composting plant will be needed."

It is therefore incumbent upon India's policymakers to exclude waste, waste resources, waste pelletisation, waste incineration, pyrolysis and gasification technologies from qualifying as renewable energy/fuel sources and to stop offering renewable energy subsidies/loans for burn-technology-based waste-to-energy programmes and policies. The high-cost routes must be avoided. Instead, appropriate methods such as small-scale bio-methanation, composting and proper recycling should be propagated.

Waste incineration poses serious risks to human health and the environment. It also violates international environmental norms. But the government continues to experiment with burn-technologies and waste-to-energy programmes, ignoring cheaper and safer alternatives
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