Products that we all use every day have a finite lifespan. Even with initiatives to re-use and recycle lots of waste still ends up in landfill sites where the chemicals in these products will decompose and can do extensive environmental harm as they break down. Plastics are not all biodegradable and there are still millions of plastic bags being manufactured, used and ending up in landfill so the damage is still being done.
Organic waste that finds its way to landfill sites will decay over time releasing a liquid waste that will leach into the earth and potentially in to the water system; even though modern landfill sites are lined with plastic sheeting, this will itself degrade over around 20-30 years when the waste it is containing may take ten times as long to break down. EfW (Energy from Waste) schemes can benefit from the incineration process with the by-products also being used in road maintenance and other projects. Cynics may say that incineration should not be seen as a better option than recycling, but in fact the countries that incinerate the most waste also already have the highest rates of recycling for suitable materials, showing that they have explored several avenues for economic waste management including incineration.
Modern incinerator technology is being developed all the time to ensure that industry standards for emissions can be met, if not exceeded and there are scenarios where incineration of waste is the most viable and environmentally safe option for disposal. Large operators of incinerators need to ensure that they comply with the terms of their permit and licence, with energy recovery rates, efficiency and emissions all closely monitored. Incineration strategies are deployed where there is no space for extensive landfill, in situations that call for clean disposal of medical waste and also has application in areas of conflict as part of a clean-up operation.