This newspaper editorial concludes that our city should build a plant for burning trash in order to avoid the serious health threats associated with many landfills. The author adds that an incinerator could offer economic benefits as well, since incinerators can be adapted to generate small amounts of electricity for other uses, and since ash residue from some kinds of trash can be used as a soil conditioner. Even if these claims are true, the authors argument is unconvincing in three important respects.
To begin with, the author fails to consider health threats posed by incinerating trash. It is possible, for example, that respiratory problems resulting from the air pollution caused by burning trash might be so extensive that they would outweigh the health risks associated with landfills. If so, the authors conclusion that switching to incineration would be more salutary for public health would be seriously undermined.
Secondly, the author assumes that discontinuing landfill operations would abate the heath threats they now pose. However, this is not necessarily the case. It is possible that irreversible environmental damage to subterranean water supplies, for example, has already occurred. In this event, changing from landfills to incinerators might not avoid or abate serious public health problems.