Can incineration solve our looming garbage problem?

Every year, some 3,100 trucks carrying 100,000 tonnes of trash make the journey from York and Durham to Model City, New York, to dump the regions’ garbage in someone else’s backyard.

But soon, those trucks will trundle along a service road just south of Hwy. 401 and pull onto a stretch of brand new blacktop leading to a large, silver-sided complex. They’ll disappear inside through an oversized garage door.

Over the course of a year, those trucks will dump as much as 140,000 tonnes of household trash to be burned.

The Durham York Energy Centre, a $284-million waste-to-energy facility, is on course for completion by August, though final touches and adjustments will continue for months afterward.

It will burn the household waste that isn’t recycled for all of Durham region, as well as a portion of York, using the heat generated to create electricity. It has not been without controversy.

Opponents of so-called waste-to-energy facilities argue that emissions pose health hazards; that they create an ongoing demand for waste and discourage recycling; that they’re inordinately expensive.

“It’s bad for the climate, bad for community health and bad for our economy,” said Ananda Tan, a spokesperson for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, an umbrella organization that advocates “zero waste.”

But industry and municipalities that have bought into the approach contend modern waste-to-energy facilities are not the incinerators of years past that…

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