Waste Management, the Occupation of the Future.

By Don Chapin

I got started on the topic of waste management when reading about Canada’s search for a storage facility for its nuclear waste, as cited in “Holding in the deep – what Canada wants to do with its decades-old pileup of nuclear waste.” Canada now finds itself in the same position as the U.S. was when Yucca Mountain in Nevada was selected as a repository for nuclear waste (See. Wikipedia’s “Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository”). Soon after its selection, it was de-selected upon the discovery of earth faults that could contaminate the groundwater and the large aquifer beneath that area.

Yet nuclear waste long-term storage represents only one facet, albeit a very important one, of a global waste management problem. On land, city managers constantly look for more disposal areas. Moreover, distances to those areas are constantly increasing. Around the world, waste-to-energy techniques—burning waste to create electrical energy and reduce the waste management problem (See “The Method & Benefits of Turning Waste into Energy”)—is catching on. Many countries use waste-to-energy plants to capture energy. For example, the use of waste-to-energy plants in some European countries and in Japan is relatively high—Japan at about 74%—in part because those countries have little open space for landfills. However, the U.S. only uses that approach for about 12% of its waste. Therefore, we have a lot to learn from other countries on this topic.

Elsewhere, almost everyone knows about the vast Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, as discussed in “This is how The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to clear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is going.” Such areas where non-biodegradable garbage accumulates have a tremendously adverse effect on aquatic life as well as becoming an obstacle for ships. While this clean-up appears to be relatively successful on the Pacific Ocean, it still brings the ocean debris to land for disposal. As a result, we have the same situation on those land sites as our cities have: waste disposal. Meanwhile, what about the similar, harder-to-reach garbage patches in the Atlantic (See “North Atlantic Garbage Patch”) and elsewhere?

And then there’s the ground contamination left by both the military (militarytruth.org/Military Truth – Environmental Damage) and industry. This contamination was mostly committed between 1900 and 2000, before the public began noticing the damage being done to our environment. Plus, the oil pipeline breaks in vulnerable natural areas, with these breaks mostly attributable to poor welds/sloppy workmanship.

Therefore, I suggest we think of imaginative engineering, such as applied in the Pacific Ocean clean-up, and teamwork as bywords for Waste Management as THE Occupation of the Future for Earth residents.

For another profound view of the situation, please read Gaia Reverie, a brief account written by this website’s administrator and editor, Hannah West.

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