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Editorial: A pile of garbage

Dealing with trash is a dirty business.

Nothing surprising there. But apparently, deciding what to do with waste isn’t so simple either, as evidenced by a new proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant on a piece of land near the Hudson River in Bethlehem.

You can read all the nitty-gritty details in Marcy Velte’s story. Gasification proponents would tell you this process is a super-efficient method of producing energy from waste. Detractors might argue it’s really no different than burning garbage with the help of a computer.

That’s not an argument we’re going to tackle here, because there are very good points to be made on both sides. Let’s just point out a few facts, for the record.

For starters, no formal proposal has been put to the town by Recycling Solutions Technology. We’re still very short on details that would have to be forthcoming with an actual application.

Next, the type of technology that would be used at a Bethlehem waste-to-energy facility is not what you might call tried and true — the only facility exactly like it is in Kentucky and there are only a handful of gasification plants worldwide.

Thirdly, and quite importantly, the Greater Capital District is slowly but surely running out of places to put its trash. Albany’s Rapp Road Landfill (where much of the area, including Bethlehem, drops its refuse) is projected to fill up sometime around 2021. A commission of stakeholder communities has been pondering exactly what to do with the hundreds of thousands of tons of trash produced every year once that happens, and the fact they haven’t come up with a winning solution yet hints at the significance of that hurdle.

Colonie’s landfill is likely to have a longer future, but even it will eventually run out of room.

What will probably end up happening once the Rapp Road trash heap is capped is most of the Capital District will truck its garbage hundreds of miles to other landfills — not a cheap or sustainable prospect.

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