The role that chlorine and polyvinyl chlorine (PVC) plays in dioxin emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) combustion has been studied and debated for 25 years. Despite energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities’ dramatic emission reductions following implementation of USEPA’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Guidelines, the PVC/dioxin relationship remains a source of controversy. The issue is whether removal of PVC from waste to be combusted will result in further dioxin emission reductions, as waste separation proponents allege. This paper uses the large volume of post-MACT emission testing data to describe the relationship between MSW chlorine content and dioxin emissions at operating EfW facilities and thereby determines whether PVC separation is likely to be an effective component of a dioxin emission reduction strategy. The paper also shows chlorine and PVC contents and trends in MSW, reviews dioxin formation/destruction/collection mechanisms in EfW facilities, and presents emission data as a function of EfW facility designs. The paper concludes that dioxin emissions at existing EfW facilities are insensitive to MSW chlorine content and that pre-combustion PVC removal offers no discernable emission reduction benefit.

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