Garbage Incineration Threatens Health and Legitimate Renewable Energy in Maryland

This week, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley faces a tough decision on whether or not to veto legislation that would place incineration of garbage on the same level with solar and wind power as a source of renewable energy.

Environmental groups and clean energy advocates across the country are urging O’Malley to veto this legislation that would grant garbage incineration top-tier renewable energy credit.

Why?  The bottom-line is: garbage incineration is not clean energy, and it is not on par with real, legitimate clean energy sources like wind and solar.

Garbage incineration does not actually remove waste, it simply converts it into another form (gas, particulates, ash) and these new forms are typically more hazardous (though less visible) than in the original form.  Incinerators can emit a huge variety of chemicals and heavy metals that can threaten our health, and the health of the environment, including known carinogens, endocrine disruptors, and substances that can alter behavior, damage the immune system, and decrease intelligence.

On top of that, boosting incentives for garbage incineration undercuts recycling because the incineration facilities rely on trash for fuel.  Providing more valuable credits to the facilities weakens Maryland’s clean-energy goals by subsidizing existing facilities instead of encouraging new technologies, such as wind power.

Right now, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is working to stop this Waste to Energy bill.  Not only would the passage of this bill threaten environmental and renewable energy laws in Maryland, but it would set a frightening precedent for other states.

Under the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), electricity suppliers must secure 20 percent of the electricity that they sell in Maryland from renewable energy sources by the year 2022.  The Waste to Energy bill (SB 690) would move waste incineration—the burning of garbage and recyclables—to “Tier 1” of Maryland’s renewable energy sources, so that it could be valued and used as much as legitimate sources of clean energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.