Zero Incineration


All around the world, waste is being burned in incinerators, gravely counteracting efforts to eliminate  greenhouse gas emissions. The heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants that come from burning trash are poisoning surrounding communities—most of which are lower income communities, communities of color, marginalized communities, and communities in the Global South.

Incinerators, which are often promoted under the names of “mass burn incinerators,” “thermal treatment facilities,” “energy-from-waste,” or so-called “waste-to-energy” (WTE) plants, all utilize similar combustion technologies that are equally detrimental to our environment.

The idea that incinerators are a viable solution to handling waste is fundamentally flawed. Incinerators continue to operate by perpetuating a false narrative that they transform waste into energy (WTE plants) or magically make our waste disappear. In truth, incineration merely transforms our domestic waste issues into more complex toxic waste problems, such as toxic ash. Toxic ash  creates air and water pollution, which is harder to contain and usually more toxic than waste in its original form. Incinerators that claim to turn waste into energy are also highly inefficient. They are one of the most expensive ways to generate energy. In addition to being costly to build and run, they are also barely able to generate even a small amount of electricity, and emit 68% more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than coal plants.

Municipal and city administrators, as well as communities need to look beyond the marketing tactics of “waste-to-energy” companies and choose options that promote—not undermine—sustainability and climate resilient solutions.


Incinerators also put society’s health at risk, perpetuate a linear and extractive economy, and counteract efforts to create a zero waste world where more local and green jobs are created. Incinerators not only compete for the same materials as recycling programs, they rely on these materials that could otherwise be recycled or composted. Zero waste systems not only deliver the best environmental outcomes, they are also proven to create the most jobs. Recycling creates over 50 times as many jobs as landfills and incinerators, and repair creates 200 times as many.