Plastic waste: better to burn?

Aug 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Burning plastic can give off less carbon dioxide than burying it, scientists claim in a Royal Society of Chemistry journal.

Swedish scientists studied the CO2 produced when unrecyclable are incinerated and the energy given off is recovered, compared with putting them into .

The authors of the Energy and article, Ola Eriksson (University of Gävle, Sweden) and Göran Finnveden (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden), initially disagreed on which of these methods of disposal would be lower in CO2 emissions.

Looking only at CO2 emissions, incineration of plastics produces a much greater amount of CO2 than landfill.

However, in the special case when incineration is performed with high-efficiency energy recovery, it provides power normally generated by plants burning fossil fuels, and can produce less CO2 than would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere, making the overall process CO2-negative.

In Sweden, as in other European countries, the disposal of non-recyclable plastics in landfill is expensive and greatly discouraged, they prefer to incinerate it.

The researchers found the results surprising: “It showed we both were right,” said Eriksson.

These highly-efficient plastic incineration plants are not common throughout Europe and in most cases plastic incineration produces a high net emission of CO2.

Eriksson emphasises that they want European policy makers to think carefully about how they dispose of non-recyclable plastics. He wants them to “reconsider this policy to not put any plastic in landfill because, in some cases, it can be worth it,” he said.

More information: Ola Eriksson, Energy Environ. Sci., 2009, DOI: 10.1039/b908135f

Provided by Royal Society of Chemistry

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User comments : 3

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sender
not rated yet Aug 25, 2009
plasmafication of the plastic sounds good, then sonic plasma reformation in pressure chamber centrifuges should yield interesting results
THEY
5 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2009
You study burning of plastic, and ONLY measure the CO2 released? What about all the other toxic chemicals released from burning plastic? A rather narrow minded study...

What ever happened to recycling plastic for use as carpet fibers?

I am certain that there are better options than burning.
PPihkala
not rated yet Aug 25, 2009
What ever happened to recycling plastic for use as carpet fibers?

I am certain that there are better options than burning.


Maybe you should read with more understanding:

Swedish scientists studied the CO2 produced when unrecyclable plastics are incinerated and the energy given off is recovered, compared with putting them into landfill.


And I'm sure the other harmful oxides can be scrubbed from tail pipe emissions, given they want to do that.