GAIA Zero Waste MasterPlan - Page 77

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) 77
creating barriers to recycling, composting, and
waste reduction. These contract clauses have
caused significant financial losses and bankruptcies
for towns and cities.[10] Existing U.S. incinerators
are at or approaching their life-expectancy and will
soon need additional capital investments, forcing
local governments and taxpayers to pay for the
maintenance of outdated technologies. [11]
©Flickr/Trish Walker
Cost to build and
Plastic-to-fuel (PTF) technologies such as
gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma arc are
experimental, high-risk, and costly processes for
heating plastic waste to create a fuel that is then
burned for energy. Policymakers and communities
should be aware of the plastics and chemical
industries’ current state-level efforts to promote
PTF by strategically shifting the classification of
such facilities from solid waste to manufacturing.
Attempts to use PTF in municipal solid waste
management over the last few decades have
exposed the practice as a risky investment with
high capital costs, energy inefficiency, and low
returns. In fact, billions of dollars have been lost
through PTF investments.[12] Facilities across
the U.S., Europe, and Canada have struggled to
generate enough product to be financially viable
and have a track record of failures, including facility
fires and explosions. PTF is sometimes advertised
10 Leonard, M. Burning Public Money for Dirty Energy. (2011).
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. https://www.
11 Baptista, A., & Perovich, A. (2019). U.S. Municipal
Solid Waste Incinerators: An Industry in Decline. Tishman
Environment and Design Center at The New School & Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.
12 Zero Waste Europe. (2019). El Dorado of Chemical
Recycling, State of play and policy challenges. https://


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