After the decision of the World Trade Organization to ban the import of certain types of solid wastes, including many plastics, in 2017, other nationals started to sell their heads to find viable recycling ways.
After China rejected its offer for foreign recycling, Indonesia and the Philippines followed the Asian giant, and Cambodia was the last to join these countries. The South Asian country decided to return plastic waste to the USA and Canada in July.
A Dutch researcher is among those who oppose the current recycling waste model widely applied by wealthy countries. University of Vrije Professor Raymond Gradus argued that the incineration of low-grade plastics is not harmful if done correctly and will present a viable and environmental solution to the current plastics crisis.
Gradus, who performs solid waste evaluation options analysis, “not every country should buy plastic” said he was thinking. Gradus said that some countries have low standards and this could pose major problems in recycling and incineration, which in some instances may increase the likelihood that plastics end up in the environment or in the ocean.
From Gradus’s point of view, exporting rich countries should investigate and pursue the correct burning of plastics. Solid wastes; Correct combustion by countries such as the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands results in lower CO2 emissions and prevents dirty burning such as outdoor burning of plastics.
Recycle or incinerate?
Saying that the end of low grade plastics is in Asian countries or countries like America and Egypt, Gradus said. “Plastic separation is quite expensive. You need a lot of extra trucks. You also need infrastructure to collect plastics from sidewalks. You need to make a new infrastructure investment. “ he said.
For plastic waste, the transport cost is calculated as 4 euro per ton, and the collection cost is 56 euro per ton, resulting in a figure of 60 euro per ton in total. The cost of recycling, collecting and transporting plastic waste amounts to 408 euros per ton in countries such as the Netherlands, which represents a 580% cost increase compared to waste incineration.
Burning plastics is actually not a very new idea. According to 2016 figures, 42% of plastic waste in Europe is destroyed by incineration. According to the Wuhu Ecology Center in China, China also welcomes this process and plans to build 100 new garbage furnaces. However, not every country has this appetite when it comes to burning plastic. One of these countries is the USA. Only 12.5% of urban solid waste in the USA is incinerated. In addition, only one new garbage furnace has been established in the USA since 1997.
According to Gradus, there are things rich countries have to do to handle the incineration. For example, the quality of garbage kilns found in some European countries in the south does not fit Gradus’ definition of smart incineration. First of all, these incompatibilities need to be resolved.
Garbage ovens are not completely harmless
Incineration is a highly controversial issue in many countries. According to a report published by the Center of International Environmental Law (CIEL), the establishment of new garbage kilns in many countries, from Ethiopia to the United Kingdom, caused dissenting voices.
According to the authors of the report, waste incineration emissions already have short and long-term impacts that cannot be overlooked. Although the garbage furnace industry claims that highly advanced emission control technology is used in these processes, engineers cannot completely eliminate harmful objects from reaching the air.
Newer garbage kilns in some countries use air pollution protection technologies such as fabric filters, electrostatic scavengers and cleaners. However, these filters may not be able to protect from all harmful emissions, such as very small particles.