Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Monday, September 12, 2005

burn baby, burn

Recently, I read an article about a theory on BSE. I am not sure the theory is correct but even if it isn’t, it brings up another interesting point. First the article:
An excerpt: “The UK imported hundreds of thousands of tonnes of whole bones, crushed bones and carcass parts in the 1960s and 1970s to make fertiliser as well as meat and bone meal feed. Nearly 50% came from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where gathering large bones and carcasses from the countryside and from rivers is an established local trade. Hindu funerary practices require that human remains are disposed of in a river, preferably the Ganges. Although the body should ideally be burned, many people cannot afford enough wood for a full cremation, the report's authors claim.”

My problem arises from the cremation angle and leads to the more general issue of the burning of unwanted items (including people and animals). I have never understood burial, either of humans or of garbage. Cremation is sanitary and leaves you with a small amount of solid matter. When humans are buried, they rot. People choose to ignore that aspect of burial but it’s reality. The ancient Egyptians learned how to preserve bodies but they did so in the belief that the spirits would come back to inhabit the bodies. We know that doesn’t happen now, but we maintain a certain fiction by continuing with embalming practices.

On a much larger scale we have garbage. When garbage is buried in landfill, all you get is contaminated land and a waste of acreage. I’m going to have to do some research but for now, I believe that burning garbage on a large scale was frowned upon by the anti-pollution scare mongers of the 60s and 70s and it never got off the ground. And perhaps there was an air pollution aspect to burning garbage back then. And perhaps it was easier to turn a blind eye to landfills because there was lots of land to ship garbage to and you could kind of hide it away.

However, in recent years, garbage landfills have become a problem. Some American cities even want to ship their garbage up here and are willing to pay to do it. And of course, we have developed an emotional attachment for (politically correct) recycling programs whose effectiveness should be more closely examined. What surprises me is that no one suggests burning garbage. Today, we even have super hot plasma burners that leave very little residue and take care of any toxic gases. In fact, they use small versions of these plasma burners very effectively on cruise ships.

So why are we not pushing our municipalities to look at burning garbage? We have the technology to burn garbage cleanly and I bet we could even come up with a way to turn the heat generated from the process into electricity. Imagine that. Not only would we get rid of garbage, we could generate electricity. Wouldn’t that be better than acres and acres of wind generators? And the fuel (garbage) is effectively a “renewable resource”! Somebody, please take this and run with it.


Blogger Conners said...

You make some very interesting observations and I know they are forever arguing what cities they should use for another garbage dumping ground. Some of Toronto's garbage even gets taken over to the states I believe.
If like you say, they can burn the garbage without producing toxic fumes and gases into the air to cause acid rain like the industries do, you just may have solved our problem on garbage.
Have you ever spoken to anyone about this...or is this just to easy of a solution that they aren't interested in hearing?

3:13 a.m., October 31, 2005  
Blogger JuliaR said...

I have not spoken personally to a representative, no. The city of Ottawa did have a presentation on plasma gasification burning of garbage some time ago, which prompted a newspaper article which prompted my letter. The technology has been around for some time and the plasma thing only refines it. It is completely possible to burn garbage with a minimum of pollutants but government reps don’t want to deal with it because they think it is a vote-loser. Maybe what we need is a lobbyist who feels evangelical about burning garbage and is willing to talk about it to everyone until people convert to the idea?! That wouldn’t be me, I don’t think, although I do feel pretty strongly about it. :)

9:10 a.m., October 31, 2005  

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