Zoom Chat - Waste to Energy - June 13, 2021

All Climate Conversations: https://drawdownseattle.org/conversations/

Links from the Discussion: 

Suggested Reading & Resources:
  • Waste-to-Energy on the Project Drawdown Web Site. In a sustainable world, waste would be reduced from the outset and composted, recycled, or reused. The current reality, however, is that cities and land-scarce countries face a dilemma about what to do with their trash. Waste-to-energy is a transitional strategy for a world that wastes too much and needs to reduce its emissions.
  • Scientific Truth About Waste-To-Energy(by Marco J. Castaldi. PH.D.) This study provides the most up-to-date information on WTE and the environment, and can serve as a comprehensive resource for policy makers and others interested in learning more about the quantifiable benefits of WTE.
  • Summary: Scientific Truth About Waste-To-Energy.If you don't have time for the full report, this high level 2 page summary will give you the key points.
  • Summary Table of WTE Benefits. Another great resource on the high level summary of WTE benefits.
  • The Zero Waste Utopia and the Role of Waste-to-Energy. From the opening paragraph: While there is no doubt that the prevention of municipal solid waste (MSW) generation should sit at the top of any public policy, industrial strategy and individual behavior, just like reducing the consumption of energy, this proposition might mislead the public into thinking that waste can suddenly disappear if only we had the will to make it happen. Zero Waste seems to be the only accept-able aim for today’s politicians who embrace an environmentally friendly platform. As a result, countries and municipalities all over the globe have committed themselves to achieving the goal of Zero Waste. So far, however, nobody has managed it, and given the many scientific and practical roadblocks, no one ever will.
  • SB 5286. The WA state bill or organic waste.  The legislature finds that management of organic waste is an essential component of the state's solid waste management system.  Original Senate bill here

Questions Asked and Answered During our Conversation:
  • Sarah H: Was that goal -- no landfill in 2020 -- reached?
  • Suellen Mele: What about bypass waste? Isn’t some trash, e.g. large bulky items, carpets, etc still going to landfill? Also, what does treatment mean?
  • Jeff Berner: It is my understanding that very high combustion temperatures are required? Is natural gas used in the burners?
  • Gloria: What happens to all the plastic bags and plastic wrapping we currently throw in “trash”?
  • Suellen Mele: What about in the US? How much waste must bypass the incinerator and go into a landfill?
  •  Laura Zeffer: How can we help King county and then eventually WA state level up to Germany’s standards?
  • Jeff Berner: How big of a capture area is required to make a WTE economically feasible?  Minimum size.
  • Suellen Mele: If plastic, paper and cardboard are removed from incinerators, where will the BTUs come from?
  • Sarah H: What do German pet owners do with dog waste?
  • Suellen Mele: Would this group be open to hearing from someone who is concerned about or opposed to WTE incineration?
  • Jeff Berner: We just passed our CO2 cap & trade law in this state. Can we include Waste To Energy or enhanced recycling as a place where we offsets can be used to satisfy the CO2 cap?
  • Laura Zeffer: How are compostable materials (corn based etc) fitting into the process? Are they helping? Why don’t products that use plastic switch to compostaBles? Too expensive for the average business??

Complete Chat Log:


00:30:56 Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle): Please feel free to add any comments or questions you may have here into the chat and we will do our best to answer as we go.
00:37:00 Sarah H: Was that goal -- no landfill in 2020 -- reached?
00:38:19 Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann: Germany sends zero untreated still reactive waste to landfill. There is still landfilling but less than 1% of remnants
00:39:30 suellen mele: What about bypass waste? Isn’t some trash, e.g. large bulky items, carpets, etc still going to landfill?
00:40:15 suellen mele: Also, what does treatment mean?
00:42:01 Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann: Treatment means the destruction of toxic organic materials and the overall inertization so end products can be used, metals and glass can be recovered without further environmental impact
00:43:42 Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann: Germany has very stringent regulations about carpet recycling (Germans overall don’t use as much carpet as we do in the US). No organics still reactive can go to landfill. Everything possible is reused. Even Automobiles and concrete.
00:44:48 Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann: And not just carpet recycling. There are over 150 regulations (similar to our paint programs)
00:45:50 Philipp Schmidt-Pathmann: Nearly 70 percent are recycled and composted.
00:46:40 laurazeffer: I wish we could regulate this here. The audio is cutting out btw. choppy
00:46:47 Jeff Berner (he/him): It is my understanding that very high combustion temperatures are required? Is natural gas used in the burners?
00:47:14 Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle): Not sure what to do about audio…the video is linked to on the Drawdown Seattle website.
00:47:23 Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle): If you want to view it after…
00:47:31 laurazeffer: No worries it got better
00:50:22 Gloria: What happens to all the plastic bags and plastic wrapping we currently throw in “trash”?
00:50:37 suellen mele: What about in the US? How much waste must bypass the incinerator and go into a landfill?
00:51:27 Scott Henson (Drawdown Seattle): https://drawdownseattle.org/conversations/
00:54:38 laurazeffer: How can we help King county and then eventually WA state level up to Germany’s standards?
00:57:18 Jeff Berner (he/him): How big of a capture area is required to make a WTE economically feasible?  Minimum size.
00:58:56 suellen mele: I’m very concerned about burning plastic which is made from fossil fuels. Burning releases all the carbon in it. From a climate issue, I think this is the opposite of what we want.
00:59:45 suellen mele: If plastic, paper and cardboard are removed from incinerators, where will the BTUs come from?
01:03:37 suellen mele: The most recent King County waste composition study found 14% of remaining waste (after recycling/composting) is plastic
01:04:23 Sarah H: What do German pet owners do with dog waste?
01:05:15 Jeff Berner (he/him): From what I understand, King County has looked at WTE but is concerned that a major capital expenditure will generate demand which would work against the goals for recycling and waste reduction.
01:16:31 suellen mele: Thanks for this comment Jeff. I’m very concerned about how WTE incinerators will compete with and undermine recycling. King County recent waste composition study shows that 62% of the county’s current waste is readily recyclable.
01:21:18 suellen mele: I’m not convinced that shifting to incineration will be beneficial from a climate perspective. There seems to be lots of controversy about that depending on what assumptions are made in the comparison. Would this group be open to hearing from someone who is concerned about or opposed to WTE incineration?
01:22:38 laurazeffer: Yes, I am grasping it
01:23:55 Kathy Dawson: Yes, Suellen, I would like to hear their perspective.
01:24:00 laurazeffer: Sounds like we need the WTE educated legislators besides our own personal habits/usages.
01:25:53 Kathy Dawson: Once a facility is built, is “mining” old landfills an option?
01:29:25 suellen mele: It’s absolutely critical to get food and yard waste out of landfills. It would be great to hear more about this year’s WA bill on organic waste (SB 5286) and what the plans are for it in next year’s legislative session.
01:31:32 suellen mele: Priorities:
The Washington state solid waste priorities are as follows. Energy recovery, incineration or landfilling of separate wastes are on the same level:
RCW 70A.205.005
(8)The following priorities for the collection, handling, and management of solid waste are necessary and should be followed in descending order as applicable:
(a) Waste reduction;
(b) Recycling, with source separation of recyclable materials as the preferred method;
(c) Energy recovery, incineration, or landfill of separated waste;
(d) Energy recovery, incineration, or landfill of mixed municipal solid wastes.
01:34:40 Jeff Berner (he/him): We just passed our CO2 cap & trade law in this state. Can we include Waste To Energy or enhanced recycling as a place where we offsets can be used to satisfy the CO2 cap?
01:39:52 laurazeffer: How are compostable materials (corn based etc) fitting into the process? Are they helping? Why don’t products that use plastic switch to compostaBles? Too expensive for the average business??
01:45:48 Kurt Hanish: I use Ridwell for my clear film plastic recycling. Ridwell requires it’s customers to separate what they put out for pickup.  It sounds like what is being recommended is for King County to do that for all of our recycling.  WTE is another solution, but it does not sound to me they are mutually exclusive.
01:46:59 Jeff Berner (he/him): The reason for my question is that we are willing to fund methane capture from landfills with CO2 offsets, which locks in landfills.
01:47:44 laurazeffer: I have tried more than once to contact a Ridwell person re; getting our 100 unit condo building a larger container for recycling plastic. They are terrible with answers/responding. I wanted to know if they will do this at all, and the cost. :(
01:48:26 laurazeffer: I gave up. Unless you know a better contact for Ridwell.
01:49:25 laurazeffer: Thank you… I will email you separately, Scott.