(Em)Powered by Waste?

By Georgia Davis Conover

The Durham region near Toronto, Canada is weighing a couple of options for disposing of municipal waste.  One possibility: a landfill, which some are calling a bowl for garbage.  Government officials are also considering the possibility of funding what is called a waste-to-energy plant, more simply put a facility that burns garbage in order to generate electricity.   While the city was considering its disposal options, the Star newspaper in Toronto went to Detroit, Michigan, to look at that city’s waste-to-energy plant where it discovered that since the city committed to the incinerator nearly two decades ago recycling is virtually unheard of.  In fact, Detroit did not begin a curbside recycling program until this summer.  Other American cities have had so-called curbside recycling for more than a decade.   Detroit, as a municipality, has not shown an interest in recycling because recyclable materials are good fuel for the energy plant.

In his article, “Strategies for Sustainability,” Stewart Barr argues that the energy consciousness of the public is influenced by a number of outside factors.  And the likely hood of someone recycling or saving energy can be tied not only to their feelings about the practice but also to situational variables.  He argues that those who are trying to influence environmental behaviors need to keep the multiple influences in mind when crafting their message.

Read The Star article.

Read Barr, Stewart.  2003.  Strategies for Sustainability. Area 35(3):227-240.


  1. Municipal waste seems to be a problem everywhere. Remote places have more serious problems sonce there is no management at all.

  2. Yes. I cannot speak for Europe or elsewhere, but interestingly waste managers in the United States will tell you the problem is not finding spaces to put landfills. Rather the difficulty is getting the permits to site new landfills. Seems no one wants a landfill in their back yard.

    Also, these discussions do miss one critical point. Talk about managing the waste stream should also address consumption. People in the west consume by far more than anyone else on the planet, and as a consequence, produce more waste.

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