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Technical Document for Batch Waste Incineration

Executive Summary

Incineration is recognized as an effective and environmentally sound disposal method for a wide range of wastes, and is used in facilities and jurisdictions across Canada. Waste generators located in remote areas may have limited options for cost-effective and environmentally sound waste management, and incineration may therefore be considered an appropriate waste management option. Remote commercial activities, such as exploration and development of natural resources, can create large volumes and varieties of wastes that must be managed appropriately. Residual wastes from industry, research activities, and the health care sector may require thermal treatment as an environmentally sound method to control the spread of disease from plants, animals or humans. Furthermore, there are certain locations in Canada where incinerating waste is an important means of avoiding potentially dangerous interactions between humans and wildlife. In all cases, reduction and diversion should be the primary waste management objectives, prior to considering any disposal option.

There are, however, some important potential environmental concerns associated with waste incineration that must be addressed through proper equipment selection, operation, maintenance and record keeping. These include potential releases of mercury, as well as dioxins and furans (PCDD/F), which are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Mercury and POPs bio-accumulate in the environment and may cause adverse effects to human health and the environment. They can also be transported over long ranges; data from measurements in the North reveal concentrations far greater than what might be explained by local production. Dioxins/furans can be generated when inadequate incineration technology is used or when an incinerator is improperly operated. Mercury is not created in an incineration system; emissions are directly related to the presence of mercury in certain waste materials. Therefore, the best method to control mercury emissions is to limit the quantity of mercury in the waste fed to the incinerator.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (which entered into force in May 2004 and to which Canada is a Party), identifies incineration as a potential source of POPs, and establishes a range of measures to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate their release. It also requires that the best available techniques (BAT) and best environmental practices (BEP) be applied for both new and substantially modified sources of POPs. Additionally, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) adopted the Canada-wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans in 2001, identifying incineration for action to reduce emissions, and adopting specific air emission standards. The CCME also adopted the Canada-wide Standards for Mercury Emissions in 2000 which include limits on mercury emissions from incinerators. Both mercury and dioxins/furans are on the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).

The Technical Document for Batch Waste Incineration was developed to provide guidance for owners and operators on proper system selection, operation, maintenance and record keeping, with the goals of achieving the intent of the Canada-wide Standards for dioxins/furans and mercury, and reducing releases of other toxic substances. The document includes:

  • A discussion of the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling to divert wastes from disposal;
  • Methods for the selection of appropriate incineration technologies to meet specific waste management requirements;
  • Operational requirements that should allow batch incinerators to meet the intent of the Canada-wide Standards for dioxins/furans and mercury, and to reduce the release of other toxic substances; and
  • Recommendations on record keeping and reporting.

This Technical Document focuses on minimizing dioxins/furans and mercury emissions from batch waste incinerator systems ranging in size from 50 kg to 3000 kg of waste/batch, the latter representing the largest batch incinerator currently in use in Canada. Batch waste incinerators are those that operate in a non-continuous manner (i.e. they are charged with waste prior to the initiation of the burn cycle, and the door remains closed until the ash has cooled inside the primary chamber). Air emission testing completed by Environment Canada in 2002 using a modern Canadian-built batch waste incinerator demonstrated that, when properly operated and maintained, these systems are capable of meeting the Canada-wide Standards for dioxins/furans (80 pg I-TEQ/Rm³ @ 11% O2) and mercury ( 20 μg/Rm³ @ 11% O2). Stack testing can be carried out as required by the regulatory authorities (e.g. federal, provincial/territorial) to verify that these standards are met.

The Technical Document recommends and describes a six-step process for batch waste incineration:

  • Step 1 – Understand Your Waste Stream
  • Step 2 – Select the Appropriate Incinerator (or Evaluate the Existing System)
  • Step 3 – Properly Equip and Install the Incinerator
  • Step 4 – Operate the Incinerator for Optimum Combustion
  • Step 5 – Safely Handle and Dispose of Incinerator Residues
  • Step 6 – Maintain Records and Report

This process will assist owners and operators of batch waste incinerators to achieve the intent of the Canada-wide Standards for dioxins/furans and mercury, and reduce the potential for releases of other toxic substances to the environment.

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