- Adapted from A-way with
Waste: A Waste Management Curriculum for Schools
- 2nd ed., Dept of Ecology,
State of Washington
Back to Trash Goes to School
- GRADE LEVELS:
- SUBJECT AREAS:
social studies, civics, government
Solid waste can be used to create energy.
To learn what resource recovery plants are and basically how
they operate. Students will consider the positive and negative
aspects of resource recovery as a solid waste management option.
- - telephone
- local incinerator
- handout: Solid Waste Options
bottom ash, waste-to-energy, refuse-derived fuel
We must look at all our options for safe and proper disposal.
One of these options is the use of resource recovery facilities
(also known as waste-to-energy plants).
- Resource recovery facilities are an
expensive, highly technological method of dealing with large
volumes of solid waste. The basic operating principle of resource
recovery plants is to burn refuse. Recyclables may be separated
out by mechanical means before burning ("front-end processing")
or after burning, or they may not be separated out at all. In
any case, 20 to 30 percent of the original refuse is noncombustible
and nonrecyclable and must be disposed of in a landfill.
- Intense heat from burning is used to
create steam, which in turn may be used to generate electricity.
Solid waste managers hope that a continuing rise in the cost
of electricity will help pay off the cost of energy recovery
plant construction. Given the enormous volumes of solid waste
produced in urban areas, some solid waste managers have come
to see energy recovery facilities as necessary components of
solid waste management systems, along with landfills and recycling.
- Critics of energy recovery plants,
however, raise objections. Some of these are the high cost of
construction, the air pollution caused by refuse burning, and
the ash which contains heavy metals and must be disposed of in
landfills. Critics also point out that energy recovery plants
require a steady flow of garbage. Maintaining that flow, critics
say, will discourage recycling and will allow people to avoid
their individual responsibility to generate less waste. This
objection can be answered by taking recycling into account when
sizing the incinerator.
- Consider the following solid waste
- - prevention
- reduction (selective buying to reduce waste)
- energy recovery facilities
- Research and discuss each of these
options (these are listed in order of national priority). Discuss
the pros and cons of each, and list on the following table.
- Remember that each community is unique
and needs its own waste management plan. There are no master
blueprints for waste disposal.
- After researching and discussing the
options, put together a plan for your community, taking into
consideration the following:
- - pounds of garbage produced
- - community water supply
- rural vs. urban land available
- air quality
- the environmental effects of the disposal method
- roads and bridges (adequacy for transport of wastes)
- presence of materials that don't burn or are dangerous in landfills
- - Which combination of options would
best serve your community in the long term?
- - Is any one of these options adequate
on its own to handle your community's solid waste?
- - If you were the city official with
responsibility for dealing with solid waste, which options would
- - Who in your local government makes
decisions about the management of solid waste?
- After this exposure, you may want to
get involved in your community's planning process.
- Organize a debate around the following
proposition: Our city/county should build a waste-to-energy plant
to incinerate our garbage. Call solid waste managers, recyclers,
leaders of environmental groups, and representatives of a burn
plant construction company for various points of view on this