June 6, 2008 A Dutch engineer has devised a simple solution to the growing amounts of waste society generates. Writing in the current issue of the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, Roelof Schuiling of Geochem Research BV, suggests solidifying waste in a concrete-type material and using the resulting slabs to build pyramids that not only deal with waste disposal but could become tourist traps and major landmarks for our cities.
Great and award-winning works of art have been made from the most outlandish of materials from Chris Ofili's depiction of the Holy Virgin Mary encrusted with elephant dung and Damien Hirst's pickled tiger shark representing life and death to the unmade bed of Tracey Emin and the unspeakable bodily fluids of avant garde duo Gilbert & George. But all of these works will pale into insignificance if a plan to dispose of solid domestic and even toxic industrial waste by building solid monuments to waste is undertaken.
Schuiling suggests that it is "dangerous and unsustainable" to simply bury solid toxic waste in lined deposits underground, which is current best practice. He says that such waste should first be immobilized by mixing with a cement and immobilizing additives to reduce the possibility of toxic materials leaching into the earth and ground water.
Moreover, if this solidifying material were shaped into slabs, these might be stacked to form a pyramid surrounded by a lined ditch. "Such a system is sustainable, easy to control, and does away with the need for an extensive and 'eternal' monitoring system," Schuiling explains. He points out that a water-repellent coating would keep any leaching of materials from the pyramids to an absolute minimum, while periodic monitoring of the runoff could be used to control any potential hazardous leakage.
"These pyramids, erected in prominent places, could serve as a tourist attraction and become a source of income rather than a continuing financial burden," Schuiling adds. He even suggests that these large-scale structures might be used as the foundation for building dwellings, office buildings, and leisure facilities, particularly in flood-prone regions. Either way, they would be monument to the vast amounts of waste generated by the throwaway society in which we live.
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- Schuiling et al. The environmental pyramid: a new way to deal with solid toxic waste. International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, 2008; 8 (3): 256 DOI: 10.1504/IJGENVI.2008.018640
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