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Letters | 7-8-14

July 9, 2014 - 10:21am

Waste-to-energy: People and planet lose

Three companies are bidding for the lucrative contract to provide Hawaii Island with a waste reduction facility. Unfortunately, all three companies provide only “waste-to-energy” solutions. No other options are offered. This is unfair to the public. There should be an assortment of waste-reduction alternatives available for the county to consider, not only one.

Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace and former director of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, says “waste-to-energy” incineration makes “no sense from a sustainable resource-stewardship perspective, because it forces communities to burn valuable recyclable resources.”

It also transforms plastics, chemicals and other toxins into poisonous airborne particles that are far deadlier to human health than if they were never burned up.

But one of the worst aspects of waste-to-energy is a hidden fact: These incinerator power plants function optimally only when there is a steady abundance of waste for them to burn. So, unless the island is continually producing plenty of waste, then the system cannot produce energy efficiently, nor make enough profit to pay off the public’s debt for the incinerator. In order to make it pay off, we would instead be forced to forever produce more waste to feed the ever-hungry incinerator. What’s more, as the economy develops and needs more energy, we would be forced to continually increase waste production. Talk about backward thinking. “Waste-to-energy” destroys a community’s chances of ever enjoying sustainable development.

If the county is sincere in its desire to manage waste in a way that serves the health of the people and the planet, no method would be more disastrous than “waste-to-energy.” The only people who would benefit are the companies that sell this toxic technology and the politicians they influence. The big losers are the people and the planet.

Koohan Paik