Incineration: A Better Way Than Landfills For Our Trash?
Sweden does burn the vast majority of its trash—only one percent of the country’s waste ends up in landfills—and even makes a profit by importing trash from neighboring countries to process in its high-efficiency, low emission incinerators. And it makes a lot of sense, given the huge toll landfills take on the environment, leaking liquids into surrounding soils and polluting groundwater while sending huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Burning waste in an uncontrolled setting is undeniably terrible for the environment, given the huge load of carbon dioxide, dioxin and volatile organic compounds sent skyward. But in a modern waste incineration facility, excess gases leftover after the trash is burned undergo a thorough filtering and scrubbing process that complies with stringent environmental standards (delineated in the Clean Air Act here in the U.S. and by even stricter rules across the European Union). Furthermore, incinerating trash reduces its volume by 87 percent, which directly translates to an equivalent reduction in the amount of space required for landfills.