Humans produce 3500.000 tons of trash everyday. And by the end of the century, that figure is expected to grow to 11 million tons a day!
Our Sun has a surface temperature of 5778 K and is about 330 times as massive as Earth. This makes it a perfect garbage incinerator for the tens of thousands of tons of garbage sitting on our planet. So why don’t we gather all the garbage on earth, bundle it up and dump it into the sun! If we did, we could live in a world without trash! In theory, It sounds like a perfect solution. But what would it actually take to do this? What are the risks of dumping millions of tons of garbage into the Sun? And how much would it cost?
While sun might seem like the ideal place to dump our massive amount of garbage, there are a few of glitches. The first is cost. It costs 200 million dollars to launch an Ariane V rocket and get it 15.432 pounds of payload into a stable orbit around the Earth. But since the world produces 1.2 trillion kg (2.6 trillion pounds) of trash per year, we’d need to launch about 168 million Ariane 5s every year to keep the globe garbage-free. And all of this would cost about 33 quadrillion per year. That’s not exactly pocket change. And to get these rockets from the Earth’s orbit to the Sun, you need to multiply that cost at least ten times. So get 330 quadrillion dollars and you’ll be able to throw humanity’s trash into the Sun… at least for one year.
Even if the world had that much money, by the way, we actually don’t, we don’t have the launch capability. All of humanity’s current space-faring capability isn’t even close to what it’d take to launch all the rubbish we make off – planet. Then there is a problem of launch failures. Russia’s Soyuz space launch system is the most successful of all-time. It’s success rate is a stunning 97% for every of 1000 launches. Now apply those odds to 168 million launches, when each rocket is carrying more than 7000 kg (15000 pound) of garbage. That’s 3% failure rate translates to 5.000.000 failed launches. That’s not so reassuring. And what if a failed rocket was carrying nuclear waste into space. If the uranium caught fire, it could stay airborne and circulate for months, dusting the globe with radioactive ash. We would be trapped in a toxic world, surrounded by our own garbage.
Perhaps when we have a reliable, working space elevator, this might be an option worth exploring. Until then, we need to find easy ways to dump stuff. Maybe we could dump trash in the volcanoes or down a hole drilled to the center of the earth. Maybe one day our scientists at CERN would be able to create a black hole, and we’d have an infinitely deep dump. This is fun to think about, but we have to continue this discussion in another episode!