Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Teresa Sabol Spezio

Reader 2

Frederick R. Lynch

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© 2019 Emma Hsu


Burning trash should not be considered “renewable energy.” However, the federal government and as many as twenty-three states classify waste-to-energy recovery (WTE), or the incineration of garbage, as a renewable energy source that is eligible for a host of financial incentives. This paper discusses how WTE qualifies as an energy source that can be included in a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), or regulations that require energy producers to source a specific percentage of energy production from renewable energy sources, claiming the same benefits as cleaner, more sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. Upon evaluating incentives and programs for which WTE is eligible, I will argue that WTE is neither an environmentally nor economically viable energy solution. By analyzing WTE policy in the state of Maryland, I examine how RPSs contribute to the longevity of this unsustainable practice, calling for an elimination of WTE from RPS policy and federal incentive programs.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.