But if we don’t build an incinerator, what will we do with our waste?
In Australia during the 1990s, local governments were trying to tackle the waste issue. In Canberra, the local authority decided that it would like to try to eliminate waste altogether, by a combination of recycling, composting, re-using waste and redesigning products so that they could be recycled or re-used. The idea caught on, and now many authorities throughout the world have adopted a ‘Zero Waste’ strategy.
Some people get hung up on the term ‘Zero Waste’ as they say you can never produce zero waste. Just because you can’t get to zero doesn’t stop you from getting as close as you can.
‘Zero Waste’ does not advocate burning waste for three reasons:
1. Burning waste, in whatever form, is not an efficient way to generate energy.
2. Burning waste produces carbon dioxide, toxic ash and polluting gases.
3. It saves more energy to recycle than to burn, as you are cutting down on the consumption of raw materials, especially in plastics where oil (a finite commodity) is used to manufacture them.
Instead, Zero Waste would see the recycling of much more waste (including paper, glass, plastics, cardboard, textiles), the re-use of many items (electronic parts would be stripped out, cars would be broken up and recycled) and all organic waste (kitchen peelings, food waste and garden cuttings) would be composted. Any difficult to recycle items (for example, some plastics) would be redesigned and maybe even replaced with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
The remaining 20% or so residual waste is ‘cured’ and land filled as totally inert material.
Cheshire County Council’s own studies show that 80% of the average domestic waste bin can be recycled.