Incinerators use heat created by the combustion of fuels in order to dispose of waste products. Heat created during the waste disposal process is also used to power steam-driven electrical turbines, and the remaining ash is then transported to a landfill.
Facilities that make use of an incinerator must first sort the waste materials that have been transported to the site. Materials are typically sorted through use of an overhead crane and then placed within the incinerator's combustion chamber. Waste heat produced by the combustion of both fuel and waste products is captured and used to convert water into steam, which is then used to generate electrical power. Emissions from the combustion process are captured by a high-efficiency filtration system, and residual ash is collected and packaged before being transported to a landfill by covered leak-proof trucks.
The first waste-disposing incinerator to be built in the United States was constructed in 1885. Early incinerators were constructed and put into operation before their impact on the environment was fully understood. Today, residual waste metals that survive the combustion process are typically collected for recycling, and the current generation of incinerators operate within a strict set of guidelines regarding particulate emissions and water discharge that may cause ecological harm.