If all the MSW of New York City were incinerated, the residue would amount to 6,000 to 7,000 tons/day, representing a giant disposal problem. About 10% by weight of the incinerator residue is fly ash collected in electrostatic precipitators, scrubbers, or bag filters; the remaining 90% is bottom ash from the primary and secondary combustion chambers. This residue is a soaking-wet complex of metals, glass, slag, charred and unburned paper, and ash containing various mineral oxides. A Bureau of Mines test found that 1,000 pounds of incinerator residue yielded 166 pounds of larger-size ferrous metals, such as wire, iron items, and shredded cans. The total ferrous fraction was found to be 30.5% by weight; glass represented 50% of the total residue by weight.
Common practice in the U.S. is to recover some 75% of the ferrous metals through magnetic separation and to landfill the remaining residue. Incinerator residue has also been used as landfill cover, landfill road base, aggregate in cement and road building applications, and as aggregate substitute in paving materials.
Incinerator residue is processed to recover and reuse some of its constituents and thereby reduce the amount requiring disposal. Processing techniques include the recovery of ferrous materials through magnetic separation, screening the residue to produce aggregate for construction-related uses, stabilization through the addition of lime (which tends to minimize metal leaching), and solidification or encapsulation of the residue into asphaltic mixtures.
An incinerator-residue processing plant might consist of the following operations: (1) fly ash and bottom ash are collected separately, with lime mixed only with the fly ash;
(2) ferrous materials are removed from the bottom ash;
(3) the ferrous-free residue is screened to separate out the proper particle sizes for use as aggregate; and (4) the remaining oversized items and stabilized fly ash are land-filled. In a more sophisticated ash-processing plant, the ferrous removal and shredding (or oversize removal) are followed by melting of the ash (fusion), resulting in a glassy end-product. This high-tech process has some substantial advantages: It burns all the combustible materials, including dioxins and other trace organics, and encapsulates the metals, thereby preventing their leaching out. The resulting fused product is a glazed, nonabrasive, lightweight
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