#1  
Old 01-15-2015, 01:36 AM
cire cire is offline
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Trash in space?

Lately, I stumbled into a discussion with peers about the inevitable overpopulation of our planet. We trailed off on a tangent about removal of waste on the surface of this planet. Solutions ranged from deep burial of waste directly into the mantle of the Earth, to dumping it all in the deepest regions of the seas. Eventually, someone brought up the possibility of shooting our waste into space. Interested, I have been researching the benefits and detriments of sending waste on Earth to space. I have come up with the following facts:
  • it costs approximately $22,000 per kilogram of mass to send it via space shuttle into space
  • the United States alone produces roughly 230 million metric tons per year
  • the entire world produces almost 1.2 billion metric tons per year
After a very simple computation, one can see the staggering numbers of such an endeavor, should one attempt to relocate the entirety of Earth's waste into space. I am not disputing the sheer enormity in terms of monetary value in such a project. After reading through many discussions on this topic, I came across many people arguing against this plan of action because it would simply be too costly for any and all parties involved to execute the transportation from Earth to space. I left that research unable to answer a question. I'm left wondering, why would a collaborative effort on a global scale bankrupt the world?

Last edited by cire; 01-15-2015 at 01:37 AM.
  #2  
Old 01-15-2015, 02:05 AM
PastTense PastTense is offline
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Perhaps someone can do the math, but 1.2 billion metric tons per year would not occupy that big a landfill considering the huge area of the earth and if you made it fairly high. You can of course reclaim the land on top of the landfill.

There is only a problem with locating landfills in urban areas with expensive land, with people not wanting a landfill in their backyard and with toxic wastes coming off the landfill if it is not properly designed,.

Last edited by PastTense; 01-15-2015 at 02:07 AM.
  #3  
Old 01-15-2015, 02:07 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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The matter has been discussed in threads here on SDBM before. (But contrary to my normal ever-helpful self, I'm not much in the mood for digging up links just now.)

A few interesting details have come out rather consistently in such discussions:

(1) Shooting lots of junk away from the earth into deep space is really expensive.

(2) Shooting lots of junk away from earth directly into the Sun is always a popular proposal. It is intuitively the best way, for two obvious intuitive reasons:
-- (a) Much cheaper, as we would just shoot junk into the Sun's gravity well and let the Sun suck it all in. No need to waste so much energy shooting junk the other way, against both Earth's and Sun's gravity.
-- (b) Once junk hits Sun, it just gets vaporized into amorphous cloud of raw protons, electrons, and other such sub-atomic debris. Whatever toxic crap it was before, whether radioactive or just plain toxic, it ain't no more! Utterly clean waste disposal!

(3) But surprise, surprise! That intuitively elegant idea doesn't work. Contrary to all obvious "intuition", shooting junk into the Sun would be massively more expensive even than shooting junk into deep space. Who'da thunk it?

Conclusions:
(1) Shooting stuff into deep space: Too expensive. Ain't happening.
(2) Shooting stuff into Sun: Waaaaaay too expensive. Ain't happening.
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Old 01-15-2015, 02:27 AM
rogerbox rogerbox is offline
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Out of curiosity, why is shooting it at the sun more expensive than into deep space?
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Old 01-15-2015, 03:43 AM
eburacum45 eburacum45 is offline
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The answers can be found in this old thread.
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...7#post11054197

But the whole idea is wrong, in so many ways. We aren't producing all that much trash that we have to worry about throwing it off planet; instead we should be treating it as a resource. Trash is full of useful materials, like glass, plastics, nitrates, heavy metals, rare earths; some of these things will be expensive enough in the relatively near future to make mining and refining trash a worthwhile economic proposition. Garbage is just a resource we haven't found a use for yet.
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Old 01-15-2015, 03:49 AM
coremelt coremelt is offline
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Originally Posted by rogerbox View Post
Out of curiosity, why is shooting it at the sun more expensive than into deep space?
Because orbital mechanics is not intuitive. The earth and everything on it, is already in orbit around the sun. To fall into the sun you have to lose enough orbital velocity (delta v) to cancel out that orbit. The earths velocity around the sun is 30 km/sec (more than low earths orbit 7.8 km sec speed). Turns out you have to have a higher delta v to send something into the sun than to send it out of the solar system.

But the other reason its a really bad idea to send trash into space. One day, everything in land fills will be valuable. Eventually sometime in the future we will run out of minerals and oil to make plastics. Landfills will be immensely valuable as sources of raw recyclable material and presumably by then we'll have some kind of nano tech that makes separating all the various elements in economic ways or bacteria that eats minerals and neatly deposits it's poo on meshwork that can be collected and harvested, that kind of thing.
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Old 01-15-2015, 04:17 AM
Alley Dweller Alley Dweller is offline
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I assume that someone is proposing to send trash into space to save the planet. But think about the toll such an effort would have on the planet and its resources.

First, you would have to protect the garbage from just burning up in the atmosphere. You would have to encase it in protective material that would probably weigh more than the garbage. And you would be shooting this valuable material into space along with the garbage. Not to mention the rocket itself and the boosters that would be going to waste.

Next, it takes fuel to propel the rocket. Burning this fuel would waste valuable resources and pollute the atmosphere.

And you would have to build the rockets. This takes machinery, minerals, and fuel. And you would have to burn fuel to get these materials to the rocket factory. All this would create even more waste and pollute even more.

Then you have to get the garbage to the rockets. If you have a limited number of rocket launching sites, you have to burn fuel, rubber, and other expendables to transport the garbage to the launch sites. If, instead, you choose to position rocket launch sites all over the world so everyone was within a short distance of a rocket launch site, you would create tremendous hazards to aviation and to the surrounding areas of the earth. Rockets are loud, rockets sometimes blow up, rockets spew dangerous chemicals. You can't launch rockets near houses or businesses. And you would have to expend tremendous amounts of fuel, rubber, and other resources to get rockets to all of the launch sites from the rocket factories.

I think if you do a full life-cycle analysis, you would find that you would generate much more waste and pollution than you would eliminate.
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Old 01-15-2015, 03:26 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
But the other reason its a really bad idea to send trash into space. One day, everything in land fills will be valuable. Eventually sometime in the future we will run out of minerals and oil to make plastics. Landfills will be immensely valuable as sources of raw recyclable material and presumably by then we'll have some kind of nano tech that makes separating all the various elements in economic ways or bacteria that eats minerals and neatly deposits it's poo on meshwork that can be collected and harvested, that kind of thing.
we will be mining landfills is true.
  #9  
Old 01-16-2015, 12:42 AM
Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
I think if you do a full life-cycle analysis, you would find that you would generate much more waste and pollution than you would eliminate.
You don't need a life-cycle analysis; just look at the properties of rockets. For instance, even ignoring fuel, a Falcon 9 weighs 23 tons empty and puts 5 tons into a geostationary transfer orbit (which doesn't even get you out of Earth's orbit). So every 5 tons you put up there generates an absolute minimum of 23 tons of junk that falls back to Earth. Obviously the real number is much higher since you can't ignore the other costs.
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Old 01-16-2015, 01:32 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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And here all this time, we've all been told what a weak force gravity is! Weak, my ass!
  #11  
Old 01-18-2015, 09:08 PM
straight doped straight doped is offline
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one organisms waste is another's gold.

why would you want to send anything off the earth to be destroyed?

that is very wasteful.

future generations will need this waste.

please, think of the children.
  #12  
Old 01-19-2015, 11:19 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cire View Post
  • it costs approximately $22,000 per kilogram of mass to send it via space shuttle into space
  • the United States alone produces roughly 230 million metric tons per year
  • the entire world produces almost 1.2 billion metric tons per year
I'm left wondering, why would a collaborative effort on a global scale bankrupt the world?
Since nobody has answered this directly, let's take a look.

The cost to do this on your terms equals $22,000,000 x 1,200,000,000 = $26,400 trillion. The world GDP is a nominal $75.592 trillion. Therefore it would cost 349 times as much as the entire world now spends. Instead of spending any money on anything to do with food, clothing, and shelter we would be spending every penny, plus every penny of savings, and every penny of value that we could convert into money. But that money stays on earth, you'd argue. Yes, but we need 349 times that original sum. So even every recycled penny goes into rocket building. And all that fuel and all those valuable bits of trash are removed from the economy so that it gets smaller and smaller and eats up its own tail. And that's just the first year. After that it gets much worse because there's nothing left except all the trash produced in the process of making the rockets.

That's why the world is bankrupt.
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