Will the City of the Future throw its trash into gigantic open landfills? Certainly not. The idea of burying millions of tons of usable resources, along with toxic wastes like lead, mercury and motor oil, will repel our decedents.
What will people in the City of the Future do with their waste? They will reuse and recycle all of it. Nothing will be wasted. Paper waste will either be recycled or turned into a source of energy. Plastics, metals and glass will all be captured and recycled. And sources of toxic waste will be dealt with in a safe manner, rather than being left in the ground for future generations to deal with.
This video shows you one step in the evolution of waste management. Instead of a landfill, it's a waste factory:
This is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. The City of the Future will deal with waste at a much more granular level.
For example, think of something as simple as disposable batteries - the little AA, C and D cells that we use in toys, flashlights and electronic devices. Batteries are full of metals and chemicals. If a city has a million residents and each one throws away just two batteries a month, that's 24 million batteries tossed into the waste stream annually - over a million pounds of disposal batteries every year. If you assume that the average tractor trailer rig can haul 44,000 pounds, it's 22 tractor trailers full of batteries per year.
Now, instead of leaving them in the ground to corrode and leak, what if we had robots separating out each battery from the waste stream, and then we dealt with them in a safe way? What if we did the same thing with every disposable diaper full of human waste, every cardboard box, every soda bottle and so on? We would have complete control of the waste stream and, as described in the video above, we would not need landfills any more.
This is how the City of the Future will manage its waste. Raleigh could be a leader in this area.