I wonder how expensive it would be for humans in general to take to submerging most of our non-reusable waste matter — including our bodies (once we’re dead), frankly — in the deep ocean near subduction zones. This might be a particularly good way to get rid of plastics, which, after all, contain a lot of carbon. It might be nice to lock it up somewhere it won’t just come right back out into the atmosphere in short order, as it does with decomposing bodies and especially with burning ones. There would have to be some way to weight everything down, obviously, and it would need to be contained in such a way that it wasn’t going to leak out and release toxins into the sea, since that would defeat the whole environmental purpose. But those don’t seem like insurmountable obstacles.
Certainly it would make much more sense for people to be buried at sea — especially in the deep sea — than to use standard burial or cremation, given worries about carbon dioxide and methane and the like which are decomposition products and potent greenhouse gases. If people were “buried” at sea even far from subduction zones (but in the deeps) then the carbon would be kept there for quite a long time. And if people were buried near subduction zones, then all that carbon (and other material) might actually end up cycled into the mantle of the planet, to be kept there for quite a long time.
Of course, as I said, we wouldn’t want to risk having toxins leak out into the ocean, and this might impact the cost-effectiveness of dealing with non-organic waste material this way…but then again, apparently there’s a ridiculous amount of plastic floating about in the Pacific Gyre and throughout the rest of the oceans anyway. If we could find a reasonably efficient way to sink it deep in the ocean near a subduction zone, in a way that didn’t require enough energy that more waste was produced than was saved, it might be worth doing. It might at least be worth looking into.
On a distantly related note, something I’ve thought of and might have shared before: Why do we not see health clubs/gyms where people ride bicycles or even treadmills that generate electricity that can be then stored and/or put back into the grid? If you think about how many people use exercise bikes in gyms, or those Peloton bikes and the like at home…how much energy is just being wasted, just turning into heat and exhaled carbon dioxide without being useful for anything but making people healthier*. Obviously a typical exercise bicycle with a generator attached wouldn’t be producing electricity at 60 hertz like US household current (50 hertz in Europe, I believe), but the electricity generated could be rectified and then stored in batteries of one kind or another. Hell, you could then run generators from those batteries to turn the direct current back into alternating current at the right cycle rate, but I’m sure there are much better and more efficient ways to do the conversion, and any electrical engineer could probably tell me how it could be done. But even if it were just basic, gonzo stuff like rectifying a current from a pedaled generator into a lithium battery or similar…at least some good would come of all that effort put in.
Heck, I can imagine places where an unemployed person could come and crank out on an exercise bike for a few hours and be paid at least enough money to buy a decent meal or something. I don’t know how well that would really work…it might not generate enough value to make it worth more money to pay someone than the food calories would cost them, but it might. In any case, though, all the otherwise fat and happy people who eat too much anyway** and who want to go burn off calories at the gym, or even at home, could also be contributing to a form of renewable energy. I don’t think it would solve the world’s energy problems by any means, but it might still be useful.
Anyway, those are a few little ideas that popped into my head, not for the first time, today, and I thought I’d share them in case anyone reading has the wherewithal to try them out or to influence policy makers to look into them. Why not?
*Admittedly, a good purpose on its own.
**Yours truly included