Wastes That Can be Burned or Incinerated

Complete combustion converts waste into inert bottom ash with minimal creation of smoke, fly ash and hazardous

gases. Several factors influence this process including the heating value, wetness and chemical composition of the

waste itself, operating conditions in the burn chamber (i.e. temperature, holding time and turbulence) and

operator skill.

The method used is important in determining what can safely be burned. Certain wastes can only be incinerated

using equipment that has been specifically designed and equipped with sufficient air pollution controls and that

achieve specific air emission standards. For example, waste containing chlorinated compounds (i.e. chlorinated

solvents and plastics, PVC piping, wood treated with pentachlorophenol or PCB-amended paint, marine driftwood)

must be separated from other waste as their burning will result in the de novo creation and emission of various

dioxin and furan compounds. Waste containing mercury (i.e. batteries, thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs) and

other heavy metals (i.e. lead acid batteries, wood treated with lead paint) should not be burned as the mercury

and heavy metals will not be destroyed. Other waste that should not be burned unless using specially designed

incinerators include used lubricating oil, hydrocarbon contaminated soil, biomedical waste, sewage sludge or any

other waste specifically prohibited by the Department of Environment.

Table 2 provides a listing of common wastes that can be burned and those that require special consideration and

treatment. Note that open burning and incineration are identified as separate columns in the table and that

different restrictions apply depending upon which method is used.   In general, more restrictions apply to the

various methods of open burning because of the incomplete combustion achieved.  Fewer restrictions apply to

incineration because of the operator’s ability to control the combustion process.

Non-combustible materials such as metal and glass do not burn and will rob heat away from waste that can be

destroyed by burning.  Combustible waste should always be separated from non-combustible waste before being loaded

into the burn chamber.

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