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Geoplasma - Plasma Arc Incineration
David Zaks, 12 Sep 06

Geoplasma is planning to build a plasma arc incineration plant in a south Florida county where 3,000 tons of trash a day will be instantaneously gasified at 10,000° Fahrenheit. The process yields syngas, slag for road construction and steam for a nearby factory. The syngas is used to generate 120 megawatts a day, a third of which powers the facility. Toxic compounds are rendered harmless by the intense heat, and although the process still releases CO2, it is less per unit energy than traditional energy generation sources.

"It addresses two of the world's largest problems -- how to deal with solid waste and the energy needs of our communities," County Commissioner Chris Craft said. "This is the end of the rainbow. It will change the world."

He probably meant to say it was "Worldchanging."

via: Wired News

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I'm pretty skeptical--there are a lot of folks around who incinerate trash, and the higher-temp ones always claim that the pollution and CO2 is minimal. It's theoretically possible that they can actually keep the vaporized heavy metals, to take one example, from being released into the atmosphere; but if they don't you're talking about a lot of toxicity.

The waste industry has such a history of corruption and fraud that greens should be very careful about buying into claims like this unless some impressive independent authorities have looked into it.

Posted by: Dave Cutler on 13 Sep 06

Whether or not this technology will succeed is, like anything else, a matter of economics.

My current electric bill is equal to about 14% of my mortgage/tax bill, and about 5% of my after tax income. My house is almost a 100 years old, so not a model of energy efficiency, but this is a house
with most all CFLs, front-loader washing machine, and a 14 cu. ft. super-efficient fridge (trust me -- it was damn hard finding a 14 cu. ft. fridge, because apparently most Americans don't even look at anything smaller than 20 cu. ft. even if it is just one person and her cat in the house).

That said, doubling my electric bill to pay for an incineration plant, and thus, avoid a landfill, would be a significant hardship. But that is not enough basis to be able to answer the above question because I don't know the cost of not significantly reducing landfill waste. That is one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind costs that
society has done so well hiding from us.

I would guarantee that, if, just like my hometown, Madison, needs a $30 sticker for disposing appliances, it enforced a sticker for futons, mattresses, and carpets, we would see a significant reduction in landfill waste.

My sense is that the brainiacs who estimate such costs don't even consider the long-term, intergenerational, societal cost of filling up
anaerobic landfills with crap that will outlast Hostess twinkies, and neither do the x-marts of this world that get more and more of the same junk made in far-away places. Obsolescence is built into everything we buy.

Hey, if you can buy a new microwave for $30, would you pay $75 to repair your old one? If you can buy a new or refurb ink-jet printer with ink cartridges for $45, would you pay $55 for just the

So, double the cost of NOT reducing waste in the landfills, and I will happily agree to doubling the cost of my electric bill to pay for the incineration plant. It is all about the economics, stupid.

Posted by: punkish on 13 Sep 06

Heavy metals as Dave mentioned, and dioxin? Atoms don't disappear! What happens to the slag used for road-building, once the road starts eroding?

This *may* be a cost-effective way of emptying existing landfills, but I doubt it can be cheaper than not producing the garbage in the first place, or diverting waste to make other value-added products (compost?).

I'm sorry, if I am going to drink the Kool-aid, I'd rather believe mass disassembly will allow us to mine landfills.

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 13 Sep 06

This is just a bad idea. I see this as just another form of throwing "away". What a loss of potential material resources for marginal secondary products. Let's focus our energy on: cradle2cradle, design for dissasembly, massive reuse-reclaimation, and composting of organics.

If their claims of neutralising toxins are correct, then maybe the proper use of this technology is to remove finally unredeemably contaminated materials that we cannot otherwise recycle (lead contaminated paint/soil, aesbestos).

Posted by: Regan Martin on 13 Sep 06

Well forget the economics, forget the technology itself just look at the company. If you even check out their website they have virtually no information on the technology. You get a short hype video that doesn't even show an existing machine. You see a plasma torch but no machine. Have these guys even built a commercial system or do they just have a torch over a hole in the ground? It seems like Florida has jumped in too early without even looking at the snake oil salesman in front of them. Just listening to their video it shows they have no idea what they speak of. One of the guy claims he thinks this could be economical. Another "thinks" this is the cleanest, safest technology. Do they not even know of what they speak. There seems to be something weird going on in Florida. A company that doesn't seem to have ever built anything suddenly gets to do 3,000 tons per day of waste this makes no sense. These guys don't even have any kind of waste management experience. I hope the florida officials think more clearly before jumping into bed with such virtual unknowns

Posted by: Bob on 19 Sep 06



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