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What is an Incinerator?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term incinerate means to burn something until nothing is left but ashes. An incinerator is a unit or facility used to burn trash and other types of waste until it is reduced to ash. The device is constructed of heavy, well-insulated materials, so that it does not give off extreme amounts of external heat. The high levels of heat are kept inside the furnace or unit so that the waste is burned quickly and efficiently. If the heat were allowed to escape, the waste would not burn as well.

This furnace is designed to dispose of trash or waste effectively, eliminating the high cost of having it hauled away and deposited elsewhere, piling even more rubbish atop existing landfills. Incinerators also serve to keep dangerous materials from finding their way to landfills where they can harm people, including those that work in such facilities. Another benefit is the fact that the device can produce power in the process of waste burning, though not all actually do harness that power.

Since not only power but also smog and air pollution are byproducts of incineration, some people feel that it is a poor alternative to other waste disposal methods. They believe it is simply a trade off, exchanging land waste for smog. An incinerator can dispose of an incredible amount of solid waste when utilized properly, however, which proves to many people that it is the most efficient waste disposal process.

Aside from reducing the sheer quantity of solid waste by roughly 90%, an incinerator can also be used to manage certain materials that cannot be disposed of properly by simply dumping them in another location due to issues of public health and safety. The extreme temperatures produced by this type of furnace can destroy certain biohazards, as well as other toxic materials that are found in medical and hazardous waste. Other dangerous and harmful materials, such as confiscated drugs, bio-weapons, and contaminants,can also be broken down. The use of these furnaces, as well as all other processes by which waste is disposed of, is strictly regulated to protect human health and the environment.

AboutMechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon926277 — On Jan 17, 2014

Even without the filters they have now, you can either burn your trash and create smoke, or you can place it in the landfill and create methane gas. Methane gas destroys the atmosphere, smoke helps in the creation of clouds. I'll create clouds to possibly promote more rain for crops.

By anon229827 — On Nov 15, 2011

No, today they have very clean incinerators.

By anon141658 — On Jan 11, 2011

Philippines is the first ever nation to ban incineration.

By anon127586 — On Nov 16, 2010

although incinerators can dispose of things better than a landfill it is worse for the environment.

By anon103323 — On Aug 11, 2010

Can incinerators be installed at home for burning waste and generating electricity or heat?

By anon102240 — On Aug 07, 2010

I feel that there may be pros and cons of Incinerators but I personally agree to use to incinerators of good quality.

As far as quality of incinerators is concerned, I noticed that Alfa-Therm Ltd Incinerators have the edge in manufacturing.

By DinoLeash — On Jul 25, 2010

@carrotisland: Yes, incinerators are used for cremation. The type of incinerator used for human remains is called a pathological incinerator. For that purpose, the amount of heat needed is 1600-2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

By CarrotIsland — On Jul 25, 2010

Are incinerators used for cremation?

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