• Question: How much does it cost to transport non-recyclable waste to landfills, other countries etc? would it be cheaper to store the waste in space as it is infinite? this way, we could give the planet a good clean-up!

    Asked by FreyaM on 24 Nov 2020.
    • Photo: Harriet Gamble

      Harriet Gamble answered on 24 Nov 2020: last edited 24 Nov 2020 8:13 am

      I think it is really great that you are trying to come up with ways to clean up our planet, but I’m not sure we’d want to leave all our rubbish floating around in space. Also, the cost to launch anything into space is very high, far higher than travelling around the world many times.

      In the UK around 14 million tonnes of household waste are sent to landfills every year (https://www.recyclingbins.co.uk/recycling-facts/), the Saturn V rocket used in the moon missions could get around 120 tonnes into orbit. That means you’d have to use 117,000 Saturn Vs every year just to get the UKs non-recyclable rubbish into space, or over 320 Saturn V rockets every day!

    • Photo: Tris Warren

      Tris Warren answered on 24 Nov 2020: last edited 24 Nov 2020 10:26 am

      Hi FreyaM – I agree with Harriet it is great that you are thinking about solutions to big problems. We are going to need people like you in the future.
      The cost of launching something into space normally depends on the weight of the satellite you are launching and how far you want it to go. To launch a coffee cup size object into orbit around the Earth would cost about a quarter of a million pounds and the price would go up from there. So it might not be cheaper to send our rubbish into space. It would also be ethically questionable – Even if we were super careful about where we sent it – it might end up crashing into another planet.
      I have heard about an idea to mine landfills. The idea is that landfills will have lots of metals in them we could use again and we could mine the landfills for those metals. But this has challenges in its self. One big challenge is we don’t know how much metal (or other useful material) is in a landfill – so I think people are now trying to figure out ways to map how much metal is in a landfill.

    • Photo: Steve Williams

      Steve Williams answered on 24 Nov 2020:

      The cost of launching rubbish into space would be much to expensive to be a practical solution unfortunately. To add to this we already have too much space junk orbiting the earth and we urgently need to tackle this too. However, you have considered a very different and novel approach to dealing with our waste and it’s vital that we have original and new ideas for all sorts of problems. Clearly we can’t go on putting our waste into holes in the ground. It would help greatly if we created less waste in the first place and this could be a first step. We also need to be better at recycling the waste so we can recycle more materials than we currently do or alternatively manufacture things out of material that are easier to recycle. There are lost of possibilities and may be the answer is to use several solutions to solve this problem.