Charleston County Council last summer decided to shut down the privately owned incinerator in North Charleston that had for the past 20 years reduced most of the county's household waste to ash.

The decision pleased incinerator opponents but raised new questions about how to dispose of roughly 300,000 tons of annual household waste.

That question is at the heart of the issue dealing with alternative waste-disposal technologies, such as gasification.

The incinerator shut down at the end of December, and today the county's waste is trucked to either the county-owned Bees Ferry Landfill or the privately owned Oakridge Landfill in Dorchester County.

Overall expenses have been reduced, and this year the county temporarily reduced the fee that households pay annually for waste disposal.

Efforts to improve recycling have diverted some waste from landfills, although much of the sharp improvement in recycling rates was accomplished by ending the county's practice of dumping more than half of the yard waste it collected at the Bees Ferry Landfill, rather than composting the material, which the county counts as recycling.

Having doubled the countywide recycling rate to 21 percent, the county hopes to nearly double it again to 40 percent.

Going forward, county officials will be considering whether there's a good alternative to putting what can't be recycled in a landfill.