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Waste-to-energy is better than the alternatives | READER COMMENTARY

A truck driver trying to get in to the BRESCO waste-to-energy facility speaks with Shashawnda Campbell, with the South Baltimore Community Land Trust. She was one of the demonstrators at the SB7 Coalition Inc. rally blocking the entrance of the Baltimore trash incinerator last year. File. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun).
A truck driver trying to get in to the BRESCO waste-to-energy facility speaks with Shashawnda Campbell, with the South Baltimore Community Land Trust. She was one of the demonstrators at the SB7 Coalition Inc. rally blocking the entrance of the Baltimore trash incinerator last year. File. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun). (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

I want to correct several misstatements regarding waste-to-energy facilities made by the authors of a recent letter to the editor, “Time to redefine renewable energy in Maryland” (Nov. 12). The authors of that letter repeat a conclusion of a fundamentally-flawed study conducted several years ago focused on the Baltimore waste-to-energy facility. In fact, waste-to-energy facilities have negligible contributions to local air pollution compared to other sources, especially transportation. Cars and trucks are the major source of air pollution in Baltimore. Even commercial cooking contributes significantly more emissions in local air sheds than waste-to-energy facilities.

Waste-to-energy facilities in the United States and globally are operating well below the stringent environmental standards currently in place, and data show their emissions are 35% to more than 90% below regulatory limits designed to safeguard public health and the environment. When evaluating waste management practices, readers should know that there are only two means of managing non-recycled waste at the rate it generated by the public: landfilling it or recovering energy and materials via waste-to-energy. Unfortunately, the vast majority of waste generated in Baltimore each year is not recycled.

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Waste that is landfilled breaks down over time and emits methane which is 28- to 36- times more potent than carbon dioxide (over 100 years) as a global warming gas. Waste-to-energy reduces greenhouse gases and has been shown to complement recycling. Waste-to-energy facilities, including Baltimore’s, recycle thousands of tons of ferrous and nonferrous metals each year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and similar organizations around the world prefer waste-to-energy practices to landfilling. I fully support advancing renewable energy sources and sustainability in Maryland and elsewhere. But to do so, citizens must base policies on reliable scientific information rather than unsubstantiated claims. An in-depth review of waste-to-energy around the world leaves no doubt that waste-to-energy is, indeed, a form of clean, renewable energy and a vital part of the sustainable waste management solutions.

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Ashwani K. Gupta, College Park

The writer is a faculty member at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland.

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