“Up in Smoke: The pros and cons of burning rubbish” : Madison Sweitzer

Photo from The Geographical 

An article from The Geographical, the official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society. In London, they are currently burning 53% of trash, which is an amount that has almost doubled in the last decade. The British government is looking to cut down on the amount of burned trash, and the Treasury has announced that it now is considering imposing a tax on the incineration of waste, creating an active opposition to what was originally thought of as a favorable alternative to adding waste to landfills. One positive of the burning trash is that it can be used to generate steam energy, and it lowers the physical amount of trash in landfills. However, opposition to this process critiques that incinerating plants have never been required to report particulate emissions in enough detail to moderate the potential health impacts. The plants are also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, with approximately each ton of waste burned adding one ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The last critique is that increasing incineration may decrease motives to recycle. Although the negatives appear to outweigh the positives, this situation does demonstrate the importance of trying to best consider all components of the Earth when making environmentally-conscious decisions. By this I mean that in this instance it appears that the damage to the atmosphere would outweigh any benefit to the biosphere of less physical trash, but it is important to assess both. This article relates to our discussion of climate change in class, and specifically how humans may be contributing to it, through greenhouse gas emissions such as this. It also introduces the political component of addressing climate change, such as the tax considered in this article, and how that may help to combat the further damage.


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