Why can’t we throw all our trash into a volcano and burn it up?

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Throwing all our waste into the volcano and burning is not feasible. The article explains the reasons.

Why can’t we throw all our rubbish into a volcano and burn it up?

Firstly, although lava at 1100oC can melt many materials in the trash — including food scraps, paper, plastics, glass and some metals — it’s not hot enough to melt many other common materials, including steel, nickel and iron.

Secondly, there aren’t many volcanoes on Earth that have lava lakes, or bowl-like craters full of lava, where trash could be dumped into. Of the thousands of volcanoes on Earth, scientists know of only eight with active lava lakes.

They include Kilauea, Mount Erebus in Antarctica and Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Most active volcanoes have craters filled with rocks and cooled lava, like Mount St Helens, or with water, like Crater Lake in Oregon.

Thirdly, dumping rubbish into active lava lakes would also be a very dangerous job. Lava lakes are covered with a crust of cooling lava, but just below that crust they are molten and intensely hot. If rocks or other materials fall onto the surface of a lava lake, they will break the crust, disrupt the underlying lava and cause an explosion.

Fourthly, When plastics, garbage and metals burn, they release a lot of toxic gases. Volcanoes already give off tons of toxic gases, including sulphur, chlorine and carbon dioxide.

Sulphur gases can create acidic fog, which we call “vog,” for “volcanic fog.” It can kill plants and cause breathing problems for people nearby. Mixing these already-dangerous volcanic gases with other gases from burning trash would make the resulting fumes even more harmful for people and plants near the volcano.

Finally, many indigenous communities view nearby volcanoes as sacred places. Throwing garbage into volcanoes would be a huge insult to those cultures.

Source: This post is based on the article “Why can’t we throw all our trash into a volcano and burn it up?” published in Down to Earth on 4th Jan 2022.

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