REGARDING THE state’s proposal to adjust the moratorium on new advanced waste incinerators, it is important to make several distinctions when considering how to best deal with landfill scarcity. Recycling and waste reduction are the number one priority, and expanded efforts are under review. But with landfills filling up, and with a number of solid waste streams containing energy content, clean and efficient use of these waste streams is important to consider.
The Department of Environmental Protection is not proposing to lift the 20-year moratorium on incinerators that use traditional combustion of solid waste. The proposal is a limited modification of the moratorium to allow the demonstration of new technologies that convert municipal solid waste into energy or fuel more efficiently and with reduced emissions.
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab reports that emerging gasification and pyrolysis technologies have significantly cleaner operating characteristics than “burning,” but are still in development and testing both in the United States and overseas. MIT, UMass, and other institutions have leading research efforts in these areas.
The Commonwealth should provide clear environmental guidelines that allow for the testing and demonstration of new technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis. The technology research and innovation economy of the Commonwealth needs pathways to responsible pilots of emerging technology. The Department of Environmental Protection is doing the right thing in allowing these technologies to be considered.