Plasma Arc Gasification Waste Plants - "No more garbage landfills?"
Hi there. Seen as my LFTR idea on the Energy section was so well received, I thought I might tangentially expand on it a little.
A little known invention that we've had around for a while is plasma arc gasification. This process involves throwing refuse in one end, where upon it's fed into a chamber where there are two electrodes. These two electrodes arc huge currents of electricity, with the temperature can reach well over 10,000'C (~18,000'F) which breaks down most materials into its elemental components, largely gas. This could potentially eliminate the requirement of landfills for billions of tonnes of garbage that the world throws out each year, which are breeding grounds for pests, diseases, and have severe impacts on the environment, especially those with iffy protocols regarding securing the waste to the site, contributing to further ecological harm.
The individual elements from the garbage 'haze' could be separated, packaged and then resold to industries for the use of further products. This is especially noteworthy as this drastically reduces the requirement of massive mining operations, and is a knockout blow to the thread of resource scarcity of rare-earth minerals which is both, well, extremely rare and therefore requires a lot of strip mining, and is a highly dirty/toxic process.
Barriers that currently exist to the widespread global adoption of this technology are the high cost of electricity, making it less economical than a simple dump site. This can be combated through relatively small subsidies or incentives for companies and cities to adopt this new technology.
Another barrier is the relatively short life of the inner lining of the containment chamber, which is understandable at those temperatures. However, I do not believe this to be an intractable problem as we've already devised machines that can contain tens of millions of degrees (Tokamak fusion reactors) with the use of electromagnets.
Lastly, and certainly foreseeable is the lack of information about it. Chances are you haven't known something like this has existed before now. If you have, all the more power to you.
Another added benefit is that one of the byproducts of the process is syngas, which can be used to supplemet already existing natural gas supplies, further scaling down the need for hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) of shale basins in order to obtain natural gas out of the ground, which employs over 590 hazardous to extremely hazardous chemicals which inevitably seep into the water table and/or release copious amounts of toxic gas.
What do you think? I'd love to hear some feedback on this.