An Exploration of the Effects of Waste-to-Energy Incineration on the Environment and Public Health in Tampa, Florida

Authors: Robin Rives*, University of South Florida, Martin Bosman, University of South Florida, Kevin Paul Martyn, University of South Florida
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment, Energy
Keywords: Waste-to-energy, Incineration, Health and environmental impacts, History, Technologies
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


The average American produces 4.38 pounds of waste daily. Although the EPA’s Waste Management Pyramid encourages waste prevention/reduction initiatives, the City of Tampa, Florida, has not invested in these initiatives due to a lack of political will. The city uses Waste-to-Energy (WTE) technology and landfilling to process its waste. WTE is a form of biomass incineration which reduces waste and produces renewable energy. WTE is a major source of air pollution in the form of CO2, SO2 and NO2, among other pollutants. Approximately 80% of Tampa’s waste is processed at the McKay Bay WTE facility, while the remainder is sent to the Cedar Trail landfill. The city is projected to experience massive population growth, but McKay Bay is already at near-capacity. The city’s WM professionals stated in interviews that there are no plans to modify Tampa’s WM practices, which suggests the city is increasingly dependent on WTE and landfilling. The research for this study consisted of in-depth interviews with professionals in the WM, public health, and environmental fields. A Life Cycle Assessment has never been conducted in Tampa, therefore, an assessment of this nature would benefit the city in the exploration of composting and waste diversion programs. Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, consistently ranks in the top five counties in Florida for chronic lung conditions and high rates of pollutants. Locational maps coupled with socioeconomic and public health data indicate that communities surrounding McKay Bay are economically disadvantaged, and unequally exposed to pollution.

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