Could we launch plastic into space to reduce pollution on Earth? © Getty Images

Could we launch plastic into space to reduce pollution on Earth?

It would be possible to contaminate space with our unwanted junk but it would be extremely costly and unethical to do so.

Asked by: Lianne Butterworth, Bromsgrove

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Launching plastic waste into space would be possible but far too costly. Estimates vary between £20,000 and £40,000 per kilogram for launching material into near-Earth orbit, and much more if we were to send it further away. This means that transporting the 300 million tonnes of plastic waste we produce globally each year into space would cost at least £6,000 trillion yearly. The same material could be recycled for a fraction of the cost.

Approximately 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste was produced between 1950 and 2015
Approximately 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste was produced between 1950 and 2015.

Furthermore, there’s the ethical question of whether it is acceptable to dump our waste in near-Earth orbit. Article IX of the UN Outer Space Treaty obligates nations to avoid the harmful contamination of space, so any such endeavour would require some form of international agreement, which would be difficult to obtain.

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