Thursday, May 31, 2012

Education, My Dear Watson

Here at Better BTU, we’ve said that instead of carrying the financial burden of jumpstarting the clean energy industry, one of the best things the U.S. government can do is promote the benefits of the waste-to-energy process through education. And it looks like our friends across the pond are trying to relay the same message.
BPF Director General Peter Davis

Director General of British Plastics Federation Peter Davis called on the government to “get off the fence” in a published letter to The Times on Apr. 11. His message came in response to an article by John Simpson two days earlier that claimed “millionaires and local activists have joined forces across Britan to fight proposals for scores of huge incinerators.”

The fundamental catalyst for change is education and we think it’s an excellent starting point for the British and U.S. governments. Just as Sherlock Holmes would boil things down to the most elementary level to solve his cases, educating the public on the basic facts of our environmental situation and the waste-to-energy process will stop the frenzied protests that often break out at the word ‘incinerator.’

 As we discussed in an earlier blog post, San Jose has taken on an ambitious initiative to radically reduce its carbon footprint. While the city’s success in diverting trash from landfills and creating green jobs is impressive, perhaps more important is the success it has had in educating the public on WHY the changes are necessary, resulting in an active and supportive community. (See: San Jose Sets the Emerald Standard for Green Cities).
Statue of Sherlock Holmes

Davis reinforces this point when he calls on the local councils to “consult in depth on proposals so as to ensure the whole community understands the benefits, rather than just engage with head-in-the-sand local groups.”

Waste-to-energy (or energy for waste as it is referred to in the UK) technology has made substantial progress over the past 30 years.  Studies by both government and independent entities have proved that today’s processes, whether incineration, gasification or anaerobic digestion, are clean and effective without releasing harmful emissions or endangering the health of the surrounding communities. Davis even uses Denmark an example to show that “higher recycling rates are not negatively affected by increased energy from waste.”

Of course there will always be a small percent of people who will never be convinced, no matter how much factual evidence is presented (hey, we still have folks that think the lunar landing was staged!) But by educating the greater community with updated information on waste-to-energy processes, it will reduce the effect of radicals showing decades-old images of incinerators spewing black smoke from its stacks.  Our advice to government: get off the fence and get in the game!

Further Reading:
BPF Slams Government Over Lack of Support For 'Energy From Waste' – Plastics & Rubber Weekly, Apr. 11, 2012

EFW Hindered by Lack of Incentives – Packaging News, Apr. 24, 2012

1 comment:

  1. This article in The Economist, published on June 2, 2012 goes along wonderfully with what we've been talking about here.