Is space the future resting place of our garbage?

From plastic bags to old electronics and food waste, trash is beginning to accumulate in our landfills.

Image result for landfill
Landfill

This is leading many people to wonder, is it viable to send our trash into space?

The most cost effective method that I can find is the Russian heavy lift launch vehicle: the Proton-M. This can bring something to GeostationaryTransfer Orbit (GTO) for a cost of $21,200/kg.

The world produces 1.2 trillion kg of garbage annually. This gives us an annual cost of $25,000,000,000,000 or $25 quadrillion dollars divided by 7.5 billion people is 3.3 million dollars per person annually.

It is obvious that our current methods of launching into outer space with rocket fuels are not financially viable. Furthermore, the high heat and pressure in rocket engines cause the formation of nitrates, which are the primary cause of acid-rain and can cause disastrous effects in the human body.

What about other methods?

Another method initially proposed by Keith Lofstrom would be able to produce the exact result as launching using rockets, for a fraction of the cost.

Launch Loop

This type of launching device would be capable of launching payloads of up to 5000kg per launch, with a cost as low as $3/kg. This system works by rotating a wire cable along a track. As the cable’s speed increases, inertial forces cause the wire to want to continue in a straight line, opposing gravity and sending the payload into orbit. This effect can be demonstrated when one end of a chain is dropped and the other remains in a jar. As the chain falls, the opposite end is violently accelerated upwards. This momentum carries the chain up.

Falling ball Chain

This system could sustain 80 launches per hour with a power cost of 17GW. However even with this impressive amount, we would require 343 launchers running 24/7 to keep up with the amount of garbage we produce annually.

A more practical solution would be to develop larger scale trash sorting operations. Organics and plastic waste would be depolymerized and converted into green fuels. Metals can be recycled and other garbage can be ionized into its constituent atoms to be reused in other products.

Our problem with trash can be dealt with easily without resorting to more drastic options. It just requires everyone to do their part.

Recycle your bottles and cans.

Separate your organic waste and dispose of it accordingly.

Use reusable containers instead of single use.

Every small action impacts our future. Let’s work together to ensure that future is a bright one.

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