The Future of Our Waste: Technofossils and Geologic Transformations

Aiden Starling

Updated Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at 11:33 AM CDT

The Future of Our Waste: Technofossils and Geologic Transformations

The Long-lasting Legacy of Human Waste

As humans continue to produce vast amounts of waste, it is intriguing to consider what will happen to our garbage in the distant future. Over the course of a billion years, our waste will undergo remarkable transformations, potentially becoming part of the geological record of the Anthropocene.

Paragraph: Many landfills, particularly those located on land and occupying high points, may erode over time, leaving no fossilized remains. However, if they manage to survive, the oxygen-free environment within buried waste could actually be conducive to preservation. Plastics and organic waste may undergo processes that could transform them into coal or oil, becoming part of Earth's underground resources.

Technofossils: The Silent Testimony of Human Existence

The geological record of the Anthropocene may contain "technofossils," which are small chemical signatures of human activity preserved within rocks. As our waste descends to high-pressure, high-heat levels within the Earth over a billion years, it may contribute to the formation of conglomerates, fossilized bones from food products, and geodes mixed with iron ores from metallic waste. Interestingly, plastics may be heated and transformed back into petroleum products, completing a unique cycle.

Paragraph: The specific outcomes of landfill transformation will depend on the gradient of temperature and pressure changes in the area. Rapid temperature changes may yield different results than slower changes, leading to diverse geological formations. This highlights the complexity of the long-term fate of our waste and the potential for it to become an integral part of Earth's geological history.

Fordite: A Mineral of Human Origin

Fordite, also known as "Detroit Agate," is a fascinating example of human-generated geology. Layers of dried paint that have accumulated in automotive factories over many years can now be cut and polished, resulting in colorful and unique patterns. Fordite can be considered a mineral and serves as a tangible reminder of human industrial activity.

Paragraph: In the grand timescale of a billion years, our waste will eventually be recycled into the Earth's mantle, melted down with everything else on the planet's surface. It is worth noting that multicellular life on Earth is less than a billion years old, emphasizing the immense duration involved in these geological processes. Our waste will become part of the ever-changing geological narrative, potentially becoming the only evidence that humans ever existed.

the future of our waste holds intriguing possibilities. From the formation of technofossils to the transformation of plastics into petroleum products, our garbage may leave a lasting imprint on the geological record of the Anthropocene. As we strive to manage and reduce our waste, it is essential to consider the long-term consequences and the potential for our waste to become part of Earth's geological history.

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