Since the beginning of our planet, a succession of chemical and biological events have taken place. Most of them have disrupted the composition and functioning of life on earth. The arrival of man has brought about a change in the Earth's natural environment through man’s production of hazardous wastes, among other items. 

The biggest threat to earth is of course due to hazardous wastes. These have especially accumulated over the past few decades. The earth is increasingly populated, and technological progress is faster than ever as a result. But alongside what is described as progress, there is a huge waste management problem. We do not yet have control over it and this problem may eventually be fatal if we do not take action while we still can.

We tend to think that the most obvious solution would be to send this waste into space. Then, our planet is not at threat from this waste anymore. Objects and substances that pollute the Earth could be thrown on a collision course with the Sun. They could also be sent and stored on the planet Mars. From a metaphysical point of view, this solution is possible. But should we begin exporting hazardous waste to Mars?

Hazardous Wastes & Pollution Types

There are now about 7 billion human beings in the world. The bad habits of all these people have caused damage to the earth that we are starting to see the consequences of. Among other things, humans are responsible for:

  • The extraction of minerals and precious and rare elements
  • The synthesis of new chemical compounds
  • The development of nuclear technologies

Industrial waste is bar far the number one source of hazardous waste. In fact, when you add up all of the types of hazardous waste, an overwhelming quantity of hazardous waste is created by refineries and manufacturing plants. Some of the top contributors are:

  • Bases
  • Oil Waster
  • Waste Oil
  • Zinc, Copper, Lead
  • Acids
  • Asbestos
industrial hazardous waste chart

These innovative technologies are revolutionizing our world and undeniably improving living conditions. But they also have undesirable effects that are extremely harmful to the earth. Today's inhabitants of the earth are causing considerable destruction to their own home with:

  • Deforestation
  • Air pollution
  • Ocean acidification
  • And much more

Why is this happening? Because humans are using this planet as a garbage can.

Current production is not only a short-term problem. It is also a significant threat whose consequences are worsening over time. Some of the most polluting and dangerous substances for the future of our planet include:

  • Nuclear by-products and waste
  • Hazardous chemicals and biohazards
  • Plastics
  • Many others

These are responsible for the emission of non-degradable gases. As a result, they could cause serious damage to the majority, if not all, of the population.

The world's resources are limited. As the population is becoming increasingly aware of the problem, sending hazardous waste to Mars is seen as a potential solution.

Man in protective suit holding up a bottle of chemical hazardous waste

What Exactly Is Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous waste is any residue that is harmful to our health or the environment. It can take up various forms:

  • Liquid
  • Solid
  • Gaseous
  • Sludge

They include, for example, discarded commercial products, such as:

  • Cleaning fluids
  • Pesticides
  • Byproducts of manufacturing processes

Not all hazardous wastes that are managed in the United States originate in the country. Similarly, not all waste generated in the United States is managed entirely within the USA.

After the packaging process, hazardous waste is shipped overseas to be:

  • Treated
  • Disposed of
  • Recycled

An agreement between the exporting country and the importing country ensures that the waste is treated in such a way as to limit any pollution. There are environmental and economic reasons for moving toxic waste across borders. A manifest often comes with the shipped waste to ensure that all members sign and respect the agreement. This applies both to the generator of the waste as well as the transporter.

For example, it is attractive for countries to export waste to a country that has the best technical facility for the environmentally sound management of such waste. They can also benefit from the economic benefits of importing waste. Countries provide raw materials for recycling or used products that can be refurbished and reused within their territory. Of course, sending hazardous waste to Mars or shipping hazardous waste to the moon may be an even more desirable option.

Shipping Hazardous Waste to Mars in 2020

In 2017, the NASA Transition Authorization Act was passed by Congress. Its main objective is the establishment of human missions on or near the surface of Mars for the 2030s. Lockheed Martin's proposal for a base camp on Mars is based on new technological advances. It provides a possible model for Mars exploration plans for crews from the international space community.

The Mars Base Camp brings together NASA, international and commercial partners. It envisions the possibility of a great acceleration of scientific discovery. As shown by the International Space Station, the contribution made by all members may enable hazardous waste to be sent there from Earth. This is where sending hazardous waste to Mars or shipping hazardous waste to the moon may be possible

However, there are three main reasons why transporters are still unwilling to perform the removal of hazardous waste to Mars in 2020:

  1. If an explosion occurs at launch or during the crossing, the transported hazardous waste will be dispersed throughout the Earth or float in the atmosphere.
  2. The energy cost is lower if you pull your payload out of the solar system than if you transfer it to Mars.
  3. Transferring our waste to Mars is currently exorbitantly expensive. Sending hazardous waste to Mars or shipping hazardous waste to the moon is not yet an attractive or cost-effective option.
The Pyrolysis Method

What differentiates pyrolysis from current practices is that the dissolution of solid waste is carried out at a high temperature in an atmosphere of inert gases--but without oxygen. The process, therefore, involves a reduction in temperatures and emission levels of certain air pollutants resulting from combustion operations.

It is important to point out that the energy generated either by gasification or by the pyrolysis is not 100% renewable. Indeed, it releases carbon dioxide from:

  • Fossil fuels
  • Plastics
  • Synthetic textiles
  • Biological materials

Tackling Waste Economically 

The anaerobic digestion process can be used to generate energy from organic waste. This waste includes food and animal products, for example. This material is decomposed into biogas and fertilizer in an oxygen-free container.

This approach offers great potential from an energy point of view. By treating 5.5 million tons of waste in this way, it would be possible to create enough energy to power 164,000 households. Compared to other methods, this would save between 0.22 and 0.35 million tons of carbon dioxide.

How are U.S. Imports and Exports of Hazardous Waste Managed?

The transport of hazardous waste on the territory of several countries increases the risk of mismanagement. Transport, recycling, and disposal practices for hazardous waste are riskier. To ensure that an international ship is managed in accordance with the protection of human health and the environment, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) contains monitoring and management measures. These are applicable to both the import and export of hazardous waste.

The United States is a member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is a signatory to the Multilateral Agreement on Waste. This agreement covers shipments of hazardous wastes for recycling between member countries.

In accordance with U.S. legislation, there is also a series of regulations that govern U.S. imports and exports of hazardous waste. They are described in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 262 Subpart H: Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste for Recovery or Disposal.

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