Pandemic garbage boom ignites debate over waste as energy

Coronavirus
A worker unloads a garbage truck at ecomaine, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Portland, Maine. Waste-to-energy converters like ecomaine are seeing an uptick in the amount of trash they collect to produce power as the coronavirus pandemic winds down in the U.S. These facilities burn garbage to create electricity. Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates are debating whether creating more energy by burning the excess waste is a safe idea. (AP Photo/Patrick Whittle)

A worker unloads a garbage truck at ecomaine, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Portland, Maine. Waste-to-energy converters like ecomaine are seeing an uptick in the amount of trash they collect to produce power as the coronavirus pandemic winds down in the U.S. These facilities burn garbage to create electricity. Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates are debating whether creating more energy by burning the excess waste is a safe idea. (AP Photo/Patrick Whittle)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — America remains awash in refuse as new cases of the coronavirus decline, and that has reignited debate about the sustainability of burning more trash to create energy.

Waste-to-energy plants make up only about half a percent of the electricity generation in the U.S.

But the plants have long sparked opposition from environmentalists and local residents who decry the facilities as polluters and eyesores.

Members of the industry say they see the increase in garbage production in the U.S. in recent months as a chance to play a bigger role in creating energy and fighting climate change.

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