Finally, someone has written a response to the pro-garbage-burner essay on MinnPost last month. I wrote about that essay here, and wished for an apples-to-apples comparison.
The new response, by two staffers from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, may not be an exact comparison, but it does provide more information. They argue that the toxic ash that results from burning is 20 to 30 percent of the original amount of trash, but that with better recycling and composting efforts, Minneapolis could get to that level of landfilling without the toxicity of the ash, or possibly even down to 10 or 15 percent of the total. And that material would all be inert and nontoxic, unlike the ash.
It occurred to me as I reread the earlier post that part of the decrease in landfilling could come from implementing one of the processes already used at the burner: the county should remove the recyclable metal from the landfill stream, just as they currently remove it from the garbage burner stream. This recycling was one of Higgins's strongest arguments, but I see no reason that technique can't be applied before landfilling if it can be used before burning.
One of the most interesting points made by the ILSR guys was this:
More jobs will be created through increased organics recovery. For every 10,000 tons of waste burned, one job is created. For 10,000 of materials composted, 56 jobs are created in processing and many more jobs are created in the nursery, grounds management and landscaping sectors.They also point out that a comprehensive recycling, composting, and reuse program would be cheaper than incineration and that recycling has fewer health and pollution costs because "In general, burning garbage emits more pollution than burning coal."