Report: ‘Misleading’ zero waste goals could send more waste to landfills

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

City College’s Earth Engineering Center (EEC) has released a new report in response to arguments from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) that called waste-to-energy a “false path to zero waste” in September. “Their overall premise regarding sustainable waste management is erroneous and quite simply will lead to more waste going to landfills than ever before,” writes EEC Director Marco Castaldi. “Lofty ideals and utopian schemes many times interrupt the practical, deployable solutions that currently exist to ensure the safest, most environmentally friendly management of society’s garbage.”

Castaldi makes a case for why he doesn’t think it’s viable to hold out for “perfect zero waste” through packaging redesign. In fact, he posits that the trend toward lightweight plastic packaging has already led to a “decoupling” of waste generation and economic growth. WTE combustion and refuse-derived fuel concepts are described as the best way to process this material after recycling.

In direct response to GAIA’s past work, Castaldi also highlights what are described as “several factual errors” about WTE emissions data, characterization of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials (NHSM) rule, descriptions of various thermal conversion technologies, and assertions that WTE limits recycling. The report includes data from both the U.S. and E.U. about how WTE can be complementary to high recycling rates, and says this is the only viable solution to keep excess plastic out of landfills and waterways.

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