Can we solve all our garbage problems by disposing of it in volcanoes?
Incineration of the garbage has been one of the most widely used and effective ways of handling the growing heaps of garbage. People burn the garbage and dump it into the landfills for decomposition. The process is so effective that countries have setup incineration plants where the garbage is burnt and processed.
However, since incineration is such an effective tool, why are we not using the best natural incinerator — the volcanoes? But Mother Nature has placed safeguards so that we do not pollute the volcanoes to hide our wrongdoings.
Problems in dumping garbage in a volcano –
1. Finding the active volcano
The Smithsonian Institute says that as you read these words, there will at least 50 different volcanoes erupting. But an erupting volcano does not mean that it is fit to become the garbage heap of the area. There are millions of volcanoes spread across the earth and they all are not well developed.
To incinerate the trash naturally, you need an active volcano. An active volcano means the one which is constantly bubbling and throwing lava to the surface. And you need the volcano to do this regularly. It would be unfortunate if we dump a garbage mountain and the volcano goes dormant without performing its duty.
2. Carrying the trash
Even if we manage to find an active volcano and erupt lava at quite a good level as would want, we still need to carry the trash there. It is not that we can carry our bags, walk up to the volcano and throw it there. Too much risk is involved.
Also, if we want to dump the trash of an entire neighbourhood or a city into a volcano, it would take a lot of proper planning to collect the waste, load it into a truck and then dump it into an active volcano. Since people do not live near active volcanoes, dragging trash there will consume time, fuel and is a costly affair.
3. Friendly neighbourhood volcano
A lot of people think that a volcano is a nice cone that has a hole at the top and is shaped like a mountain. You can walk to the top of the mountain and throw the bag of trash down without any risk involved. And what do you think will greet you at the centre of the crater? A lovely lava lake which is perfect to throw trash into, right?
Well, hate to break it to you but not every volcano is as cooperative as the one described above. The natural incinerator is a slow lava-erupting volcano that throws lava (hot and molten) onto the surface of the earth. Trust me, you do not want to go near it.
4. Becoming the next Chernobyl
Let us imagine that you are living in a city where there is a volcano that is not dangerous in terms of throwing lava out of the hole at the top. But that is not the only thing we have to worry about. When the pressure of the hot gas and magma inside the volcano rises beyond the threshold, the volcano becomes susceptible to explode. If you are throwing your trash in an exploding mass of molten rock, gases, and ash, you are already dead.
And if you manage to survive that, you are always exposed to harmful poisonous gases which are present in large quantity at the top of the volcano. Furthermore, a group of researchers in 2002 threw cold trash in a volcano which resulted in explosions. So, yeah, you throwing the trash into the lava can also make the volcano explode.
5. Volcano reaction
This was the reaction when the trash was what an average household of 4 people generate in four days. Imagine what would have happened if the trash was about the whole month’s generation or 4 days generation of the entire neighbourhood or a month’s garbage of the entire neighbourhood or a month’s garbage of the entire city? Pretty bad, right?
There have been reports when rocks fell into the lava and it exploded to up to 280 feet in the air. The explosion destroyed fences and all the scientific equipment installed to monitor the volcanic activity. I think that this is too much of a risk associated with taking out the trash.
6. Volcanoes don’t follow incineration guidelines
The aftermath of our waste generation is poisonous gases. When we incinerate our trash, harmful gases like sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. are released which are pollutants of the air. You do not want to live in an area that is fuming with sulphur dioxide. Incineration plants follow a book of guidelines and rules that limit this gas release as it is filtered out. But the volcano does not have this feature.
There are already poisonous gases hovering above the volcano crater and there is no benefit in adding to them by throwing our trash inside. Also, volcano lava is not hot enough to melt nuclear fuel. So, dumping that is only going to spark some unwanted reactions. Yeah, it is hot but not hot enough.