Incineration serves in waste management as a way to treat waste through controlled burning. This treatment is often used in the production of electricity as it reduces the mass of waste up to 96 percent. It is popular among smaller countries like Japan, whose scarcity of land make incineration a convenient way to dispose of waste.
While incineration is a popular way to dispose of waste, the use of combustion also burns refuse items that could have been recycled or composted. Also, many of the waste items incinerated contain toxins such as mercury, dioxins, and furans, which produce carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide when burned.
The practice of burning refuse is something that can be traced as far back as the First Century AD, where communities like the Israeli city of Jerusalem and Mayan aboriginals in Central America burned much of their refuse often. The burning of rubbish on a larger scale and as a source of energy began in 1874 when the first “Destructor” incineration plant was built in the British city of Nottingham. While Destructors were capable of producing energy, they soon fell from favor for their toxic emissions, coating surrounding communities with ash. Despite the poor record of Destructors, the use of incineration has continued through the twentieth and twenty-first century with incinerators being better designed for treating waste.
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“Incineration.” Waste Management Resources. http://www.wrfound.org.uk/articles/incineration.html. Accessed August 9, 2016.
Suzuki, David and Ian Hanington. “Incinerating trash is a waste of resources.” David Suzuki Foundation. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2013/09/incinerating-trash-is-a-waste-of-resources/. Accessed August 9, 2016.