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The Positives And Negatives Of Incineration Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1946 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ever thought about what happens to all the trash after the garbage men haul it away in their trucks. Chances are the trash that was sitting in your alley is on its way to begin a treatment process. The treatment process used frequently is that of incineration. Incineration is a type of waste treatment that uses extremely high temperatures to convert the waste products into things such as ash or gas. The gas that is created by incineration can easily leave the atmosphere and is similar to the smoke you can see coming out of huge chimneys at power plants. The gas is treated and cleansed of pollutants before it is allowed to enter the atmosphere. This gas can also carry away the ash that is produced during the thermal treatments with it while it enters and exits the atmosphere. Incineration is used in order to reduce the amounts of solid wastes that are created by the surrounding population and left to decompose.

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Incineration is widely used; however, there are many places were this is not the option used when it comes to solid wastes. Landfills are used in place of incineration. A landfill is simply a place where solid wastes are compacted and buried. A landfill may seem like an easy, harmless technique for getting rid of trash and solid wastes but it has many disadvantages and problems. When solid waste is compacted it is then dumped off at a landfill and usually buried into huge holes in the ground. When the solid wastes sit in those holes and begin to decompose they can release many pollutants. The waste can leak into local waterways and contaminate the water and all that relies on the water for life. While solid waste sits in the landfill for a long period of time it will begin to decompose. When organic waste decomposes it lets off some methane. Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas that can cause an assortment of harm to all that it engulfs. The soil in and around the landfills can also become contaminated and produce threats to the environment.

Landfills can also produce a variety of collateral damage as well. When there is a place designated strictly for waste products there are sure to be many creatures attracted to it. A landfill is a magnet for flies and numerous other bugs and insects. These can pick up different diseases and complications from the wastes and spread them throughout the environment. It is also not unusual to find people searching around landfills for materials they could possibly use somehow. These people could become trapped under all of the waste or come in contact with some kind of harmful substance. Roads leading to landfills can also become worn down by the constant use of heavy trucks and machines. These are all problems that come along with landfills although they are beginning to slowly diminish with all of the recent efforts to aid in making landfills safer and more beneficial. According to Growth Perspective landfills have many piping devices in order to keep rainfall from building up and to attempt to trap the hazardous gases the wastes emit. They also point out that in third world countries there are not enough founding to develop and install these pipes which allows the harmful gases to be emitted directly into the environment.

Incineration is a much better alternative to eliminating solid waste than landfills. This process of incineration has a variety of techniques used to thermally treat the waste. The technology behind incineration varies amongst the types of incineration that are being used. However, the basic principle is that of something similar to a furnace, somewhere to burn the waste. There are many different types of incineration from something as simple as a burn pile, where a mound of waste is set on fire, to a moving grate, where waste is processed through a fire chamber and flooded with oxygen in order to increase flame and speed up process. A burn barrel is a little more sophisticated than a burn pile in that the waste is placed inside a metal barrel before being burned to help prevent out of control fires and other problems that could arise from a burn pile. Many industrial plants will use a method referred to as a rotary-kiln. Rotary-kiln uses two chambers in the process of incineration. The first chamber is used to burn down the waste into gases while the second chamber furthers the burning of gas and provides a place for the chemical reactions that occur during gas combustion. There is also a method known as a fluidized bed. A fluidized bed is referred to as a point when a solid is placed under certain conditions and environments that allow this solid to act as if it were a fluid instead. In Fluidized-Bed Sludge Incinerator Design Liao explains this design of the fluidized bed and the conditions that must be met in order to achieve the desired outcome. This fluidized bed is made up of sand and caused by a strong influx of airflow. The point of this method is that once the fluid bed is created the waste will be placed where the airflow is coming from and all of the substances will combine. The sand, the waste, and the air will take on a fluid like form which makes it much easier for all of the waste to travel around the furnace where the heat is being generated to break down the waste. These are all different ways that incineration can be used to break down the amount of solid waste that is placed on our earth.

Just like any other process used in today’s world there are still many cons that come along with incineration although it is a much better alternative to ridding us of solid waste than landfills. Incineration does not completely eliminate landfills either. Incineration simply breaks down the solid waste into gases and ash leaving the smallest possible amount of waste behind. There are some leftover wastes from incineration that must be placed in landfills. The incinerators produce a tremendous amount of air pollution and can blow the ashes over a wide range of area. These incinerators also tend to be very odorous and can be unpleasant to those that are in contact with it. The looks of the areas around these are often repulsive sights and cause those around to be upset. A major con of this option for eliminating solid wastes is the cost of materials needed to build the components and the time it takes to create the incineration sites. It could take a very long time before a site could be built and actually put to use.

There are a few major concerns that come with the process of incineration. Over the years it has been found that this process can release dioxins into the atmosphere. Dioxin is a type of pollutant that is highly toxic. When someone is exposed to this particular emission there are a number of health factors that they could develop. Dioxin attacks and then builds up and stores itself mostly in the fatty areas of someone. When these toxic compounds are building up inside tissue they can cause tumors. It is thought that dioxin can be a carcinogen however; it does pose a threat even when its outcome is not cancerous. Exposure to dioxin can cause abnormalities in teeth enamel, sperm count in males, immunity disorders, and even diabetes. In Dioxin Prevention and Medical Waste Incinerators Thornton points out that even small amounts of exposure to dioxin can cause an extremely large affect. Thornton claims that dioxin gets transferred through the food chain and that at some point everyone will come in contact with this horrible toxin and that medical incinerators need to do a better job at preventing the emission of dioxins seeing as they are the main source of dioxin emission.

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Despite all of the negatives that can come along with incineration there is also a long list of positives that this method ensues. A major pro of incineration is that it can produce electricity. Sweden can produce eight cents of electricity with only fifty cents of solid waste (terryally.com). The temperatures of the incinerators can be used to boil water which is what causes a generator to move resulting in electricity. The high temperatures of the incinerator can allow the fire to keep burning all by its self and not need the extra fuel which cuts down on cost tremendously. The temperatures of incinerators can typically breakdown many toxins and waste that are able to be ruined at towering temperatures. This can be very beneficial when it comes to the environment and land structures near it. It allows the toxins an alternative to seeping into nearby waterways or contaminating the soil and all the organisms around it. Incineration also greatly reduces the amount of solid waste that is left over. The heat of incineration is great enough to burn many materials and reduce it down to ash. This is a lot better than simply dumping all of the solid waste into a hole in the ground and burying it. There will still be some waste that will go into a landfill after incineration but that depends on many factors. Materials that can be recycled will be taken away from the incinerator ash and many metals will as well. After the metals and recyclables have been removed, the ash that is left over could also be used as a type of fertilizer if it is shown that all hazardous materials are eliminated during the burning process.

After furthering my knowledge on the topic of incineration and the many components of this technique I have came to many conclusions. Incineration seems to me to be a very useful and beneficial tool. It is a clear alternative to landfills in many ways. It does not leave the waste just lying around in huge holes in the earth nor does it allow the contamination that can result in a landfill to occur. I understand that there are a number of negatives that can result from incineration but I feel that the good outweighs the bad in this situation. I do not think that there is a better way to rid ourselves of all of the solid waste that we produce. We cannot expect to produce waste that contains many toxic and harmful compounds and simply get rid of them without any negative side effects. The extreme temperatures of the incinerators do an exceptional job at eliminating many harmful substances and breakdowns a number of toxins keeping them from spreading throughout the environment. Without the incinerators these substances would simply be seeping out into our soil and waterways and causing many problems. Besides the harmful side of the waste there is the issue of space. Incineration eliminates the space used by solid waste by astounding figures. Without these incinerators we would eventually run out of place to build our landfills and we would all be living with the waste and dangerous toxins. Incineration may bring some bad to the environment but that is minute compared to that of landfills. They also produce many good things unlike the landfills. The ability of incineration to produce electricity is a major part of the benefits of incineration. The can basically keep themselves running and the extra energy can be used to sell and operate other power plants. I am well aware of the positives and negatives of incineration now. I am for incineration and believe that it is a good way to eliminate waste. However, if something were to be developed later on that can provide benefits just like incineration and perhaps even more benefits and one that also produces less negatives I would support that. It would be very hard to create a system that eliminates our solid waste and produces no type of harmful after effect. Until something like that can be achieved incineration is in my opinion the greatest way to eliminate all of the solid waste we produce.


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