On the Incorporation of Waste Material in the Solid Part of the Earth

R. C. Bostrom, M. A. Sherif


The disposal of waste substances by industrial society is leading to contamination of the world ocean. The production of man-made solid waste is in excess of $0.5\times 10^{9}$ tonnes per year. A growing fraction is not susceptible to organic breakdown or recycling, and production is increasing exponentially as more regions become industrialized. Present disposal practices consist of incineration, of dumping at sea, and of discarding material on land. As a result, foreign substances are being added in cumulative fashion to the atmosphere and to the waters of the world ocean. Once released in the terrestrial fluid envelope, noxious matter is subject to uncontrollable dispersal. Lodgement of waste in sedimentary sinks would cause its fixation under cover becoming thicker. A disposal system is outlined, aimed at standardization, and having the stages: (1) collection; (2) compaction of waste into blocks; and (3) its sea transportation to tectonic sinks. Deposition in subduction sinks would result eventually in the ingestion of waste material by the upper mantle. Deposition in sinks of the extensional class would result in its burial for periods without limit so far as civilizations are concerned. In both cases, it would be necessary to guard against reworking, and to examine the effect of exudations before burial.

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