Wednesday April 28, 2010 | What to do with our Trash?

April 26, 2010 at 11:12 am | Posted in Coming Up | 8 Comments

One common question for a large and growing region is what to do with the trash. Incinerators are becoming a more common way to dispose of tons of trash daily but the idea is met with mixed results. Recycling is also a way to deal with large qualities of trash, but one company aims to produce useable energy out of the things we throw away. We look at several types of incinerators in our region and the proposal for a whole new way of dealing with our trash.
John Downey
– Senior Staff Reporter, Charlotte Business Journal
Tom McKittrick – President, Forsite Development
Bruce Gledhill – Solid Waste Management Director, Mecklenburg County

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  1. Some areas of the USA actually export their garbage to other areas of the USA; for instance, major cities such as NYC daily export many tons of garbage to other less crowded states, many of them in The South. Other huge American cities like Chicago, LA, and so on do the same.

    The following is an excerpt from an article by Lester Brown (a prominent American environmentalist) called “Throwing Out The Throwaway Economy” wherein the former governor of the state of Virginia tells NYC’s former mayor that “the home state of Washington, Jefferson and Madison has no intention of becoming New York’s dumping ground”:

    “One of the first major cities to exhaust its locally available landfills was New York. When the Fresh Kills landfill, the local destination for New York’s garbage, was permanently closed in March 2001, the city found itself hauling garbage to landfill sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even Virginia—with some of the sites being 300 miles away. [ED:the state of Kentucky receives a lot of NYC’s garbage, also]

    Given the 12,000 tons of garbage produced each day in New York and assuming a load of 20 tons of garbage for each of the tractor-trailers used for the long-distance hauling, some 600 rigs are needed to move garbage from New York City daily. These tractor-trailers form a convoy nearly nine miles long—impeding traffic, polluting the air, and raising carbon emissions.

    Fiscally strapped local communities in other states are willing to take New York’s garbage—if they are paid enough. Some see it as an economic bonanza. State governments, however, are saddled with increased road maintenance costs, traffic congestion, increased air pollution, potential water pollution from landfill leakage, and complaints from nearby communities.

    In 2001 Virginia’s Governor Jim Gilmore wrote to Mayor Rudy Giuliani to complain about the use of Virginia for New York City’s trash. “I understand the problem New York faces,” he noted, “but the home state of Washington, Jefferson and Madison has no intention of becoming New York’s dumping ground.” –

  2. I get conflicting answers on household battery disposal. Can they go in the trash or do I take them to Foxhole?

    Please, please, please pick up recycling weekly. We rarely fill up our trash bin, but go to the recycling center at least once a week in addition to our pick up.

  3. Why are recycling bins so small? My family and I create 2 to 3 times the amount of recyclables than we do trash. I would like to see recycling bins the size of the trash can.

    The company I work for (restaurant) trys to recycle, but the company that collects our trash/recyclables says that they can’t handle the amount of recycling we create, therefore we have to throw it out. Thank you for the show!

  4. The Appalachian State University Energy Center has worked on this issue and has assisted in developing “business incubators” that support local artists by burning kilns and heating and lighting the buildings. EnergyXchange.Org is an example in yancey and Mitchell counties.

  5. Question: Why doesn’t Charlotte recycle pizza boxes, even if just the lids? When we used to live in NYC (five years ago), pizza boxes were recycled, the only instruction was to remove the oily liner and pizza crusts or any food debris. Does Charlotte suffer a technology lag? Why can NYC recycle pizza boxes, but ours end up in land fill with other trash?

  6. Is biomass more effective at producing energy than extracting methane from landfills (see my last comment about community based landfill projects)?

  7. Thank you all for your comments. We will be considering a follow up show that focuses more on recycling in the near future. Peggy: Bruce Gledhill told me that they take batteries at all four of their recycling centers. You can learn more about that at
    Amy: Mr. Gledhill also said that the grease in the pizza boxes was an issue and that Charlotte did not have a large enough system to afford the technology to deal with such boxes. I hope that answers some initial questions and perhaps a recycling show soon will answer more.

  8. Incineration destroys resources and perpetuates pollution of the environment. Older incinerators have been joined by new burners claiming zero emissions and so-called “green” energy from garbage, tires, sewage sludge and biomass from farms and forests. While some new incinerator technologies—gasification, plasma-arc, and pyrolysis—may have lower emissions than their predecessors of the 1980’s, all of them have smoke stacks that emit pollution to the environment.

    For example, Covanta Energy plans to build a waste-to-energy plant in Chester County, South Carolina which could burn 1,600 tons municipal solid waste per day. Even with a state-of-the-art dry scrubber pollution control device injecting lime slurry and a fabric filter, toxic air pollutants from the plant would include Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Hydrogen Chloride, and Mercury emitted after the hot exhaust gases from waste burning pass through the pollution control devices. Based on US EPA data, total air pollution from such a plant would be 1417 tons per year. Carbon dioxide emissions would be 575 thousand tons per year. This carbon dioxide would take centuries to be re-absorbed from the air. Combustion processes are not part of the natural animal-plant respiration cycle and it is wrong to compare them as part of the natural cycle. This is the fundamental flaw common to waste combustion projects no matter if they are dubbed waste-to-energy, gasification or pyrolysis.

    For more information, go to

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