Why don’t we send our garbage into space?

Our planet harbors a lot of garbage. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have produced 30 trillion tons of stuff – from skyscrapers and bridges to clothes and plastic bags. Much of it is still with us in the form of waste.

Every day, 350 million tons are added worldwide. Worse still, much of the world’s garbage is disposed of poorly – dumped on land, in waterways, and in open landfills in cities and towns. This exposes people to serious health risks. It damages crops and soil, and a lot of waste ends up in the oceans. Thinking about the mess we’re making can be pretty overwhelming.

waste in space?

Some researchers have suggested sending spent nuclear fuel into space.


Sending junk into space isn’t as crazy as it sounds. After all, there is a lot of space out there that no one – as far as we know today – can claim.

Some researchers have suggested sending nuclear waste into space. They mainly think of sending radioactive fuel rods from nuclear power plants. It’s true that nuclear waste will remain extremely dangerous for tens of thousands of years, and humans have done a poor job of disposing of it safely on Earth.

However, these proposals have never progressed for many reasons. One is risk: What if a rocket carrying tons of highly radioactive waste exploded on launch? Another reason is the cost, which would be far greater than the already high price of storing it safely on Earth.

There’s also a lot of “space junk” already orbiting the planet, including broken satellites and meteor debris. NASA estimates that there are over half a million pieces the size of a marble or larger in Earth orbit. They move at high speed, so they can really damage spacecraft in a collision. It would not be wise to extend this problem.

Here’s a much better strategy: Reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, incinerators, and open dumps on land and in the oceans. Part of that job falls to governments, which set rules on issues like allowing single-use plastic bags. But there are many things people can do to reduce waste in their daily lives.

Many Rs

Composting can help reduce terrestrial waste.

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You may be familiar with the “3 Rs of trash”: reduce, reuse, recycle. Every step means less waste at the end of the day.

If you want to reduce waste, choose reusable cups, cutlery or grocery bags instead of single-use plastic items. Many cities and municipalities have made this the rule.

Some communities also collect organic waste, such as leftover food and yard waste, and turn it into compost — a soil-like material that gardeners and landscapers use as fertilizer. And many gardeners do their own composting at home.

You can reuse it by buying used goods and clothes and donating your unwanted but still usable stuff. Freecycle networks make it easy to give away useful items you don’t need in exchange for other goods.

Recycling paper, plastic, glass and aluminum keeps them out of landfills. It also helps slow down climate change as less energy is required to create new products from recycled materials. In 2018, nearly a third of US municipal solid waste was either recycled or composted.

Some items, like plastic bags and straws, can be difficult to recycle. But aluminum cans, paper, cardboard and certain types of plastic are successfully recycled at much higher rates. It’s important to know what can be recycled where you live and how to do it – rules vary greatly from place to place.

There are more than 3 Rs to respond to. You can fix things, reclaim things, and reinvent how you buy and use things.

There is increasing debate about the right to repair – giving consumers access to information and spare parts so they can repair their own goods, from electronics to cars. Businesses want you to buy new replacement parts, but many people are pushing for rules that make it easier to fix your own stuff.

There are many ways to reduce waste before space is the only place to put it. Once you’ve tried a few, you’ll find that it’s easier than you think.

This article was originally published on The conversation by Kate O’Neill at the University of California, Berkeley. Read the original article here.

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