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active volcanoes

By Alex Mardikian

Wouldn’t it be great if Hawaii could resolve its waste disposal issues by simply dumping the trash in volcanoes? Kilauea and Mauna Loa would incinerate anything that we’d toss into them. Or, would they?

What tells us that dumping trash into volcanoes is not such a great idea? We do burn trash but in a controlled environment in incinerators. The issue is that burning

huge amounts of trash by dumping it into volcanoes would result in heavy atmospheric pollution.

The problem is that volcanic craters and lava lakes are not endless pits but are actually quite shallow. They are very hot and will probably melt most things, but even red-hot lava cannot incinerate all the waste that humans create. Medical waste and nuclear waste cannot be incinerated even by molten lava. Waste that wouldn’t be incinerated would simply sink into the lava lake. This sunken trash may erupt out of a vent and then spread over a wide area, thereby polluting it. Also, lava lakes can be instable. Dumping trash from a height into lava lakes can result in explosions and lava shooting up for hundreds of feet.

There aren’t that many active volcanoes that one could actually use for burning trash. Transporting trash to these volcanoes will burn a lot of fuel and cost money. The carbon footprint left behind by such activities will make this mode of waste disposal quite useless.

It is a far better idea to use incinerators to burn trash to generate electricity and do so in a safe manner where harmful gases are not released into the atmosphere.

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