|We as humans have currently done a great bit of
damage to the planet Earth. As an alternative
way of disposing of garbage, would shooting large
sums of trash into space be all that detrimental
to the planet?
|Question Date: 2009-03-30|
Your question reminds me of the phrase "There
is no 'away'." In other words, when we dispose of
things, we're really just moving them around.They
may cause trouble in their new location. Space
seems like a good idea at first because it's
pretty far away, but there are problems.
First, it would cost a huge amount of money.
The sources I've looked at say it costs about
$10,000 a pound to send things into orbit on the
space shuttle. It might cost a lot less to send
garbage, but let's say we cut costs by 10,000 fold
(a pretty big assumption), that would still be $1
per pound of garbage. How many pounds of garbage
does your family create in one week? According to
the "Less is More" websiteclick_here
"More than 8,000 tonsof waste are
estimated to be generated each year by the more
than 70,000students and 7,500 staff throughout
Santa Barbara County public schools." That's 16
million pounds per year just for a fraction of the
residents of Santa Barbara County. That's going
to be a pretty big garbage bill.
that only puts the garbage into orbit. The trash
will eventually fall back into the atmosphere and
burn up, but in the meantime your old gym shoes
and apple cores would be a threat to space
navigation. NASA has a site on space junkclick_here
That says there are already hundreds of millions
of objects orbiting around the earth that are
basically trash created by previous space
activity. Imagine what would happen if we were
spewing millions of tons of garbage up into orbit
If we spent a whole lot more
money, we could send things far enough away that
they wouldn't orbit the earth, but imagine how
much that would cost.
So it looks like we're
better off using less, recycling, and disposing of
wastes efficiently here on earth.
there be other problems with sending our trash
away from the earth, never to return? Look in
your family's garbage can. What kinds of things
are "recycled" by the earth? What kinds of things
are"harvested" from garbage right now? What kinds
of things might people try to recover from garbage
in the future as raw materials got
scarce?Thanks for asking,
It would be bad because rocket fuel is toxic,
and certain fumes released at high altitudes may
also damage the ozone layer.It's not that
significant when you only have a few launches per
year, but consider that you'd need to launch a
rocket every minute to get rid of all the trash.
The U.S. alone generates 700,000 *tons* of solid
waste per day. For comparison, the Space Shuttle
can only carry 22 tons of cargo, so you'd need a
Space Shuttle every 2 minutes for the U.S. to take
its trash to orbit. But even then, you're not
getting rid of it, you're just putting it into
orbit, where it could could collide with the space
station, satellites, or future Shuttle trips. You
would need even bigger rockets to get the trash
past Earth orbit and, say, drop it into the Sun.
Instead, the best way to reduce our trash is to
stop generating so much of it. That means
recycling and making things like cars and
computers so they can be recycled more easily.
Yes it would be extremely detrimental to the
planet. The reason is it COSTS a HUGE amount to
put something in orbit or to launch something on a
escape trajectory. So it would consume a BIG BIG
amount of resources to put one ton of garbage in
space... it would require a lot of money, and the
process of making the rocket, etc would generate
more CO2 gas than simply burning the
garbage in the first place!!!!
Great question! I've thought the same thing.
The problem is if our space-bound garbage truck
were to crash or explode in our atmosphere,
potentially harmful garbage could spread all over
the world. Think how disastrous it would be if we
filled a spaceship with nuclear waste and it
If the spaceship exploded after it
passed through our atmosphere into space, that
would also be very bad. There's a growing concern
in the scientific community of space debris and
this garbage ship might add to the problem. Space
debris is anything from satellites for cell phones
to spent rocket stages to paint chips from old
space ships orbiting our planet. Please see:click_here
an interesting discussion about all the pollution
we've put up in space and the problems it is
causing. In brief, this fast orbiting garbage can
be very destructive to existing satellites and
spaceships we're sending into space. Just last
February an unused satellite crashed into a new
one over Siberia, scattering even more space
debris into Earth's orbit.
You should watch
the funny Futurama episode named "A Big Piece of
Garbage." This episode jokes about exactly what
we're talking about - the main characters need to
deal with a garbage ball that was sent into space
500 years earlier. It was even up for an Emmy in
1999! See: click_here
In the end, although
you brought up a very good idea, the risks do not
outweigh the benefits. The take home lesson is
that we, as humans, must take accountability for
our actions and handle the pollution we've created
in an environmentally responsible way.
good to know that you're not only concerned with
our planet's issue, but that you're suggesting
thought provoking solutions as well. Keep up the
1) It uses up energy to shoot material
2) Those resources inherent in the
trash (pulp, metals, the energy to create them)
would then be lost forever from Earth, and believe
it or not - Earth has finite resources.
Philosophically, this is equivalent to placing
your sewage and other waste into rivers and
4) Near Earth Space trash already poses
a hazard to the planet.
Yes, if only because of the amount of energy
necessary to get something out of Earth's
Burying it in a
subduction trench or melting it in a volcano is
probably a better option (since the interior of
the Earth is radioactive anyway, that being the
source of the energy that drives volcanoes in the
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