Table of Contents

Waste Reduction & Recycling

21. Waste Poundage Fee

Garbage generators should be required to pay a fee for every pound (or other unit of weight) of garbage they generate. More specifically, each category of garbage should have a fee that generators are required to pay to have it collected. Some possible categories could be paper, plastics, metals (including aluminum), hazardous wastes (batteries, medicines, etc.), stones-bricks-concrete, food wastes, yard wastes, etc. Paying a fee for yard wastes would not only encourage people to recycle their yard waste again into their gardens but would also encourage them to dry out their yard wastes to make it lighter before they are picked up. There should also be a category called non-sorted wastes so that people are not forced to separate their wastes if they do not want to. However, this would be the category with among the highest fees to the generator (except for hazardous wastes, etc.) because of the need for the collector to sort and prepare this waste. Obviously, governments would need to establish a standardized set of categories so everyone knows what they are before such a system could be implemented. Collectors should inspect the waste stream at the point of collection so as to ensure an acceptable degree of purity of the categorized waste stream.

These fees could be paid every month, just like a utility bill. Furthermore, garbage generators could call and schedule their own garbage pickup either from the city or from whoever collects that kind of garbage. In fact, competition among several garbage collectors could result in the prices charged to the garbage generators to fluctuate according to market supply and demand. Possible payments to waste generators could even be made by waste collectors for waste materials that are really in demand, like aluminum, etc. The market prices (either the prices charged or the prices paid) for all categories of wastes should be determined by the free market.

If waste generators take their waste themselves to collection or processing centers, it would be natural that they would pay a discounted cost for disposing of that waste, or if the waste is relatively valuable, such as aluminum, they would be paid a premium because the waste collector did not need to bear the cost of collecting this waste. However, the natural markets should determine all elements of the price structure associated with this system of waste disposal.


22. Landfills

The practice of dumping unprocessed trash into landfills, the ocean, the atmosphere, or into any other open environment, without first extracting all economically recyclable materials including extracting energy through safe incineration, should be banned. Under no conditions should garbage that may pose a potential aesthetic, physical, chemical, or biological threat to the aesthetic quality and normal functioning of a natural environment be disposed of in that environment without first ensuring that measures are taken to mitigate virtually every possible threat so that the waste becomes environmentally inert.

The ultimate goal should be to find ways to recycle all wastes generated by humans back again into useful products. The requirement to make wastes completely inert before disposal in the environment would result in a considerable increase in such disposal costs. The benefits of increasing such costs for this type of disposal are many. First, efforts to recycle wastes would be more economically attractive and new markets for recycled wastes would emerge. Second, garbage generators would likely pressure their suppliers to make their products more recyclable as well as to minimize the use of packaging materials. Third, consumers may not be as willing to purchase lower quality goods which require more frequent disposal, thus encouraging producers to generate higher quality goods with longer lifetimes.


23. Nuclear Fuel and Radionuclide Recycling and Disposal

Nuclear fuels should be manufactured, stored, used, recycled, and disposed under international supervision. The greatest economic benefits should be obtained from used nuclear fuels or nuclear wastes before they are permanently disposed. This would include the extraction and recycling of virtually all marketable radionuclides from nuclear wastes.

High level nuclear wastes which are not marketable should be required to be handled in two ways.

  • First, wastes with half-lives longer than 100 years should be required to be transmuted, if practical, to isotopes with half-lives shorter than 100 years. Then these transmuted isotopes, as well as other radionuclide wastes with similar half-lives, would be stored at secured locations in such a way that would always allow inspection and maintenance personnel direct access to the waste storage containers. These waste containers would be held in this kind of storage for an amount of time necessary for the longest half-lived radionuclide which is stored in the container to go through four half-lives. Under these guidelines, 400 years would be the maximum amount of time nuclear wastes would spend in this kind of storage. After this amount of time has elapse, the nuclear waste would be only 6.25% as radioactive as the original waste. The waste can continue to be protected and monitored, if desired, but without needing such high levels of security.
  • Second, radionuclides having half-lives longer than 100 years, and which cannot be practically transmuted to shorter lived isotopes, should be required to be disposed in a way that would not necessitate the provision of long term security against accidental or intentional human or environmental harm. Namely, these wastes should be taken off the planet and disposed in a way that would make human retrieval or sabotage impossible. These nuclear wastes should be launched into space in small packages using rail guns, laser launch systems or other similar ground-based launching technologies. These packages containing waste should be launched with enough energy and with properly equipped launch vehicles to place it immediately (without orbiting the earth) into a trajectory that, within a few years, would either intercept with the sun or would take the nuclear waste permanently out of the solar system. There should be no intentional fly-by the earth or gravity assists using the earth. If the nuclear waste could be rapidly crashed straight into the sun to achieve the deepest possible penetration, the intense solar energy would vaporize the waste and should effectively dilute it to the point that even if it were to escape from the sun via the solar wind, the pollution would probably not be scientifically detectable. Another possibility would be to crash these vehicles on one of the gas planets just so we receive confirmation that the wastes have been permanently disposed and are not continuing to wander somewhere. However, though these wastes would become incredibly diluted within these planets, this practice may potentially significantly contaminate these planets, interfering with and affecting the accuracy of future scientific investigations.

If the cost of launching small quantities of waste using ground-based launching systems are low enough and if the reliability of such systems are high enough, it may be both safer and more economical to dispose of more radioactive wastes in this manner rather than holding them under high security storage over multiple half-lives on this planet. For example, we could use the space disposal method to dispose of radionuclides with half-lives of 75 years, 50 years, 40 years or even less, depending on cost. Radionuclides with half-lives of less than 20 years do not present overwhelming Earth-based storage problems because they would decay to relatively safe levels within an average human lifespan.


24. Hazardous Waste Disposal & Recycling

Medicines, batteries, motor oils, TVs, computers, monitors, fluorescent light bulbs, paints, pesticides and other hazardous wastes should be collected separately from all other waste streams. Businesses should be responsible for arranging their own proper hazardous waste collections. However, the collection of privately generated residential hazardous waste should either be collected by the government (by request of the generator when enough has been generated) or it should be a requirement of the generator to take the waste to an approved disposal location. For example, old medicines should be required to be accepted at any pharmacy that sells prescription medicines. Batteries should be required to be accepted by any location that sells batteries.

Deposits Paid Upon Purchase of Hazardous Waste
The ideal, economically pure way to fund such a program would be to have the generator pay for disposal at the moment of transfer from the generator into the disposal stream. However, a bit of knowledge about human nature indicates that a very significant number of people will choose to avoid such payments at the end of a product’s useful life and find other, namely incorrect ways for disposal. Therefore, it may be optimal to charge a deposit fee (as is done on many beverage containers) of a certain amount to cover all the costs for proper disposal (throughout the industry). The very, very great additional benefit of adopting this policy route would be that used batteries, for example, would now have a positive value at the end of their service life, meaning that there would would be an incentive for their extraction from the environment, as is the case with beverage containers today. Furthermore, there would be less resistance among both consumers and merchants to make this extra effort to deliver and accept old batteries because they would be able to collect some of the original deposit amount. Consumers would be allowed only a portion of their original deposit back so that merchants would be able to collect some of this deposit for themselves to enable this program to have the proper support. Perhaps there should be an option for consumers to be able to take their batteries directly to a hazardous waste processing site in order to receive more or all of their original deposit back.

An additional benefit of adopting this deposit-oriented approach is that the higher economic cost for each unit of hazardous material at the original point of sale would naturally reduce, at least somewhat, the demand, making this whole problem a little bit smaller.

This concept of charging a deposit for an item to prevent undesirable disposal down the line could be applied in other areas, as well. For example, cigarette butts may be another product that could be charged perhaps a 1 cent deposit (or more) on the butts, decreasing their improper disposal and definitely leading to an increased collection of butts from the roadways. Although it would be advisable to refrain from disrupting the natural economic order of things by imposing artificial (or improperly placed) price points that do not contribute to an accurate reflection of the true cost of the product or service, it can be convenient to do so. Sometimes, this convenience may be worth it because, as in this case for batteries, it may just not be feasible to increase the recycling rate otherwise. And since batteries are especially toxic, this ‘improper’ economic incentive may justify imposing this deposit.

As a last resort, perhaps each fire stations should be the default collection sites for household hazardous wastes. Of course, it would be ideal for people to take such wastes to a more appropriate locations as described above, but until such policies are in place, and to prevent its disposal in unauthorized ways, it would be beneficial to make it common knowledge to have all fire stations accept all such wastes.