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Calderal Garbage Dumps

What comes from the Earth can be returned to the Earth.
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I'm certain that this has to be baked somewhere, but a cursory Google didn't find anything similar.

Most consumers of waste disposal services take such services for granted. However, the problem of waste disposal is one which constantly vexes those who provide those services. Where all of it should end up is one problem, as most communities vociferously protest any plans to locate a dump site nearby, and environmentalists vociferously protest any plans to construct a dump site in areas abundant with wildlife. Another problem is how to deal with various types of garbage. For instance, toxic chemicals can't just be dumped with general trash, for fear that they will seep down to water tables, and medical waste must be taken to special facilities for incineration.

There may be an easy solution to these problems. There are several places on Earth where there is a high degree of regular volcanic activity. I propose that garbage be shipped to these places for burial/incineration.

In areas where there are active volcanos, garbage could be dropped or dumped into the caldera, where it would be incinerated, and whatever was left would be incorporated into the lava. In other places, garbage could be placed in the path of an advancing lava flow, or even dropped onto it, to be incinerated and buried as the lava advances. Another method would be to have geologists locate underground magma flows. These rivers of molten rock could be accessed by blasting open pits into which garbage could be dumped, to be carried back down beneath the Earth.

There are several benefits which I can see in this plan. Economically, areas destroyed by volcanic eruptions and magma flows could recoup some of their losses by turning waste disposal into a local industry.

Then there are the ecological benefits. First, the amount of space devoted to landfills could be drastically reduced. Second, the intense heat would, quite likely, break down many toxic chemicals, and underground currents of magma would carry them back down below the crust. Medical waste, if dumped here, would definitely be rendered sterile, as well.

So far, the only downside I can see might be an increase in certain gas emissions as solid waste is transported and burned, but I'm pretty sure that this increase would be negligible compared to the natural emissions of these gasses from normal decomposition and from the volcanos themselves. Also, the effects of the increase could be mitigated by reforestation of former landfills.

Guncrazy, Oct 24 2001

Glasses are not liquid http://www.ualberta...derksen/florin.html
they are amorphous solids [prometheus, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Glass solid? liquid? flows? http://www.urbanleg...ass.flow/index.html
There's a ton of stuff here. [pottedstu, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Waste & Want http://www.januarym...nfiction/trash.html
review of a book on the history of trash, esp. in the US [hello_c, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Fat of the Land http://www.fourwall...om/bookmiller1.html
and of its history in New York [hello_c, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

The Garbage Cam http://www.nr.state...pers/dumpphotos.htm
What happens when garbage disposal is too expensive or inconvenient? [Guncrazy, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Burying things just 'aint a solution. http://www.smh.com..../world/world22.html
[sdm, Oct 24 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

[link]






       Tectonic toilet bowls, anyone?
sdm, Oct 24 2001
  

       The economics are more questionable than you think. Transporting New York's garbage to Hawaii would cost (enormously) more than transporting it to Staten Island.
angel, Oct 24 2001
  

       don't let us be too hasty with this one - all that heat going to waste
po, Oct 24 2001
  

       Peter: The stuff is instantly incinerated tho (well most of it would be). Although I really don't recommend this on the basis that normal garbage incinerators probably smell foul anyway, so dumping mass amounts of garbage into one huge one probably ain't gonna do much good.
kaz, Oct 24 2001
  

       [PeterSealy]: Yes, a volcano is where stuff comes out of the Earth. But it's really, really hot stuff, and anything dumped into the caldera of a "simmering" volcano would likely burn up. I wasn't suggesting that placing garbage on Mt. St. Helens before it erupted would have been a good idea.   

       Also, I've heard of using subduction zones as a method of dealing with waste (specifically, nuclear), but this solution would introduce a host of new problems, as it would take hundreds, if not thousands of years for garbage to be "dragged under", if it occurred at all. And most subduction zones are deep under water, which poses the problem of getting the garbage down there, making it stay where it should, and preventing the products of decomposition from polluting large areas while it waits to be ground under by a moving continent.   

       [UnaBubba]: Certainly, reduction of waste products is a fine idea, and worth pursuing. But until almost everything comes in edible packaging, and nanobots disassemble everything else into harmless molecules, we're also going to have to find ways to deal with the waste we currently produce. And that's what this post is about.   

       [angel]: I'm not suggesting that this is economically feasible for all the world's garbage. But Iceland might be able to handle a significant portion of the garbage produced by New York.   

       [kaz]: I don't think volcanos smell all that great to begin with, as they do expel a lot of sulfurous gasses on their own. Dumping garbage into them probably wouldn't make the odor much less pleasant.
Guncrazy, Oct 24 2001
  

       I thought this idea was going to be about transforming trash into enormous Alexander Calder - style mobiles.
snarfyguy, Oct 24 2001
  

       <anti-rant>[UnaBubba]: While I can understand hostility towards those who make us fight through multiple layers of useless packaging to get to our products, I'm not quite sure I understand the logic behind your hostility to this idea.   

       If we should ignore the problem of waste disposal because it does not directly confront the problem of waste generation, should we then:   

       ...stop treating the symptoms of AIDS because it does not directly confront the problem of curing HIV infection?   

       ...neglect to prosecute race-based crimes, because legislation and punishment cannot erase hate from the human heart?   

       ...shutter soup kitchens and homeless shelters, because they do not provide the rehabilitiation, education and employment necessary for integrating street people into productive society?   

       I think we can agree that the answers to these questions, and many more like them, are a resounding "NO." Which is why I'm baffled at the sort of resistance you're putting up to my idea.   

       We live in a world full of ills. And while striving to cure those ills is honorable, trying to alleviate the symptoms in the meantime is only slightly less worthy of praise.</anti-rant>
Guncrazy, Oct 24 2001
  

       The widely used waste hierarchy goes something like: Minimisation, Re-use, Re-cycling, Composting, Incineration, Disposal. To optimise global waste management procedures, an integrated approach is needed - there's no simple fix. Interestingly only a very small percentage of the waste stream is made up of household waste (from memory I think it's approximately 1%), but this particular element is especially varied and therefore much harder to deal with than most waste.
stupop, Oct 25 2001
  

       [stupop]: The beauty of using lava to incinerate garbage, as I see it, is that lava is molten rock. Temperatures high enough to melt rock should have no problem destroying plastic, paper, wood, metal, or organic material. Therefore, many of the problems arising from the need to differentiate garbage types are eliminated.   

       As for developing a global solution to waste management, I'd say it would only be possible in the Star Trek universe. Implementation of such a plan would require a global authority that drafted and enforced laws, installation of the necessary infrastructure, the thorough modernization of the third world, the abolition of national sovereignty, and a willingness to bomb any nation which didn't separate its plastics from papers.   

       [UnaBubba]: Ah, yes. This is one of those problems which, like many others, can easily be solved by the threat of savage violence. Not as elegant a solution as nanobots, but I suppose it's a bit more feasible.
Guncrazy, Oct 25 2001
  

       The Third World where I've been wasn't producing much garbage. They produced some briefly, but they have re-use, re-sale, composting (including feeding to local pig), and incineration (inluding using in cookstove) to a fare-thee-well. We should be such children of invention; don't drag them in to smokescreen the convenience of the industrialized countries and the trash we produce.
hello_c, Oct 25 2001
  

       This would be a curse - literally and figuratively.
I am appalled at the amount of unnecessary packaging for what is a snack or meal of any description - be it for a canned or frozen item or fast food. My intent over the rest of my days is to learn to make many foods from scratch, sauces of every description included.
thumbwax, Oct 25 2001
  

       ub: as much as i applaud the recycling industry in general, don't forget that it's beginnings (in north america at least) lie with the bottled soft drinks industry. remember refillable glass pop bottles? coke and pepsi realised that they were spending too much of their profits on collecting, sterilising and refilling those bottles, so they sponsored the environmentalists to jump-start the recycling "bug" which in turn allowed them to increase the amount of product they produced in plastic bottles and metal cans. in toronto alone, the bottling industry donated $30 million in the late '80's to help start our "blue-box" program.   

       as for paper, much of the industry that should be buying recycled paper is not, for the simple fact the not very many people want it. most people want the highest quality materials, which they perceive as "virgin" materials. having worked in the automotive plastics industry even our customers (the big three) wouldn't let us use more that 30% regrind, and many insisted on 100% virgin for their products, and we were only making air ducts for their cars!   

       hopefullly these attitudes are changing. i recently visited a waterfront park that was just built in the toronto area, and the boardwalk and benches were constructed from "plastic wood", made from recycled plastic, and which should last much longer and require less maintenance than real wood. until things change significantly though, i am in favour of high-temp incineration of non-food waste.
mihali, Oct 26 2001
  

       hi ub! so far so good, but i wish i was still on vacation :o)   

       i like the half-baked part of this idea which is that the heat energy in volcanoes is "free" i.e. we don't have to add anything to use it. i have been a fan of incineration for while now, but the greenpeace types you mentioned earlier helped to sack our plants here in toronto. so you see, ub, that the plebiscite did help to swing the vote, but in this case, it was the wrong direction. we're now stuck with the options of sticking our garbage in an abandoned mine in northern ontario, where the locals are vehemently opposed; or trucking it to michigan for disposal, which is what we are now doing. pretty sad really. the blue-box program just diverts a lot of waste from landfills to sorting centres where it sits waiting for someone to buy it. a lot of the stuff that is put into blue boxes ends up in landfills once it has been sorted anyway i.e. clear glass only can be recycled, not green or brown.
mihali, Oct 26 2001
  

       [Unabubba]: Well if you were concerned about burn efficiency and gas production, you should have said so.   

       Burn efficiency should be good, as current waste incinerators burn at about 1200F (although there are ultra-high temperature incinerators which burn much hotter. But these require fuel, produce their own wastes, and are not economical to use for ordinary garbage). Molten lava, on the other hand, is about 2000F. I am, admittedly, less familiar with the way gas scrubbers work, but it's possible that some way might be found to use the free heat of magma to both incinerate certain types of toxic wastes, and deal with the gasses produced.
Guncrazy, Oct 26 2001
  

       // It 'melts' (becomes obviously liquid, as glass does not have a "melting point" as such) //   

       Woah, UnaBubba, never mind the gun control and capital punishment flamewars, don't even approach the "is glass a solid or a liquid?" debate. The consensus from alt.folklore.urban seems to be that you can call it a solid or a liquid, but it doesn't flow. I posted a link, but reading it all is insanity.
pottedstu, Oct 26 2001
  

       I'm with Guncrazy; people should not be blamed for attempting to fix problems in any way possible. UnaBubba is acting like it's somehow Guncrazy's fault that product manufacturers add so many extra layers of packaging.   

       I will also note that waste disposal really isn't a big environmental issue. It's a political issue and an economic issue, but deforestation, soil and aquifer depletion, extinction and global warming are all vastly more serious environmental problems than the fact that we're stuffing used diapers into a few holes in the ground. The real environmental costs of all that packaging aren't in disposal -- they're in the side-effects of manufacturing it all.   

       Note also that paper recycling can be an environmental disaster.   

       Having said all that, I don't think volcanic waste disposal is a good idea. The transportation costs are likely to far exceed the savings from not having to supply your own heat for incineration. (I'm speaking of both economic and environmental costs and savings.)
egnor, Oct 26 2001
  

       Historically and politically, there is evidence that making the *disposal* of trash 'easy' and 'clean', or just distant, seriously reduces people's willingness to think about the costs of creation and disposal. Out of sight, out of mind.   

       Hence curing the symptom may actually make the disease worse, just as treating the symptoms of an illness just so I can go to work will probably increase the amount of time I'm sick (and let me pass it on to others).   

       Recycling certainly didn't begin with the bottled soft-drink industry; it may have restarted, after at most a hundred years' pause (in turn broken during the world wars), but it was normal for more of the history of civilization than not. Fortunes rose on kitchen-grease!   

       I've linked to two books on the subject, and Pratchett's _The Truth_ also has it as a subplot.
hello_c, Oct 26 2001
  

       [hello_c]: I'm not sure that making trash disposal inconvenient or expensive would make people rethink their consumption habits. In fact, it would probably make things worse.   

       I live out in the country, and where people haven't been able to get trash picked up, they've dumped it out in the woods or in open fields. And rural trailer trash types aren't the only ones that do this sort of thing. Businesses and industries of all sizes engage in illegal dumping as well, for cost savings. Quite frankly, this pisses me off every time I see it, so I want garbage pickup to be cheap and widely available.
Guncrazy, Oct 26 2001
  

       Even a volcano is not going to solve heavy metal contamination. For that matter, illegal dumpers aren't likely to be willing to pay to have something shipped to a volcano. You don't have one in Kentucky, after all.   

       It's better to have garbage pickup reflect the cost of disposal and be enforced. Granted, esp. in the country, it's hard to enforce.   

       I like the principle Germany and the Netherlands, IIRC, are working on: manufacturors are expected to take back their products, and therefore design for reuse, or sometimes they get to choose between paying a tax on stuff they believe is needed but not recyclable and paying for stuff that is recyclable, which creates a market and (presumably) means someone will come around and pick stuff up, even paying for it.   

       An intermediate approach is taxing the manufacture of stuff based on how dangerous it is.
hello_c, Oct 26 2001
  

       GunCrazy, get in contact with someone in Hawaii - close to a volcano - ask that person if it would be a good idea. For example, I didn't see any landfill activity around volcanoes when I was there for 1 month in '83. But I'm just a haole.
thumbwax, Oct 27 2001
  

       Waste is a terrible thing to mind.
bristolz, Jun 02 2004
  

       If you don't want it, dump it into a volcano?   

       Good idea.   

       Radioactive waste?   

       No one goes near volcanoes xcept people willing to die, so that won't change.
DesertFox, Jun 02 2004
  

       Lets not throw away all the energy available in this stuff (both the volcanos and the garbage.)
haywardt, Feb 28 2006
  
      
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