Is it better to burn plastic or bury it?

Inhaling burnt plastic

Cremation is the most accepted method today in the First World, even in Southern European countries, where burial in family niches is a deep-rooted funeral tradition. Among its advantages are not having to take care of the maintenance of the niche, not having to pay funeral fees, etc.

It is supposed to be more careful from the sanitary point of view, as it prevents epidemics, putrefaction, etc., but what has really spurred its promotion is that it eliminates the problem of space in cemeteries. With cremation we are reduced to ashes that fit in a funeral urn and can be stored in any closet or thrown in a beautiful and beloved landscape. This is precisely where the drawbacks begin.

To cremate a body, temperatures of over 800º C are required in a crematory oven, as well as 20 liters of oil and half a kilo of activated charcoal to filter out possible pollutant emissions or old metals. On the other hand, even so, more than 27 kilos of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere per body incinerated.

What happens when you burn plastic

“As countries like China close their doors to foreign waste and an overstretched recycling industry fails to keep pace with the plastic pollution crisis, incineration will be an easy alternative that is increasingly used,” explains John Hocevar of Greenpeace.

Incinerating plastic waste to generate energy seems sensible. After all, plastic is composed of hydrocarbons, like petroleum, and is more energy dense than coal. But there are several hurdles lurking in the way of expanding waste incineration.

For a start, deciding where to locate waste-to-energy plants is difficult, as with landfills: no one wants to live near a plant that receives hundreds of truckloads of garbage every day. Typically, these plants end up being located near low-income communities. Only one new incineration plant has opened in the United States since 1997.

The plants generate enough electricity to power tens of thousands of homes. But studies have shown that recycling plastic saves more energy – by reducing the need to extract fossil fuel and process it to create new plastic – than incinerating it along with other household waste.

Toxic gases when burning plastic

Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente defined us as the “garbage civilization”. We produce garbage at such an alarming rate that we cannot manage it. We know what we should do, but we don’t do it.

If the landfill is not properly sealed, it will release toxic products and contaminate aquifers, land and seas. Pollutants are also released into the atmosphere. Sooner or later toxic products may be released, even if the landfill is perfect. Our society does not think long term.

Many environmentalists are calling for a DRS system to avoid abandoned packaging. The DRS is a great system, if it is used to reuse packaging (as was done a few decades ago when you were given money when you returned the packaging).

The solution is simple: close the landfills, open composting plants and force everything that is put on sale to have its reuse and recycling cycle already closed and well organized. Burying untreated waste is a waste of resources and a risk of pollution.

Burnt plastic

This was warned by Marco Antonio Montoya Cieza, executive director of Environmental Health of the DISA IV Lima East of the Ministry of Health, who said that caring for the environment is everyone’s responsibility.

With the approaching celebration of “World Environment Day”, the specialist recommended avoiding the use of plastic items, and if you have to use them try to make them biodegradable.

“There is no excuse for not doing something daily for the environment. Even in the office, printing on both sides of the paper or doing it when it is absolutely necessary or planting a tree, will be valuable, since green areas, contribute to reduce carbon monoxide levels,” said the specialist.

On June 2 at noon, DISA IV Lima Este will hold, at its institutional headquarters, the election of the winning panel among the educational institutions of the primary level of the eight districts of Lima Este, which during the month of May carried out their work with messages and slogans for the “World Environment Day”.