This is part of a series focused on technologies and systems.
Pollution is "something nature cannot break down or digest."
There are at least three solutions;
1. Recycling, which diverts the waste stream back into the economy. This isn't a real solution though because a percent of waste is always not recycled. And because due to billions of people, the sheer amount of waste is horrifying, and because our new waste is toxic in all kind of weird ways that the clay pottery of past civilizations was not.
2. Burial. Only a partial solution.
3. Burning. Not a solution.
4. Genetically modifying bacteria to metabolize the waste. A totally awesome solution, especially if the broken down products of metabolism are themselves not toxic.
Step 1. Impose a trivial tax on the production of all specific pollutants at the point of manufacture. One tax for each specific pollutant. It doesn't have to be much.
"Pollution" is legally defined as;
"something that is not being broken down by chemical, photochemical, or biological processes at a rate equal to or greater than the flow of new matter into the biostream by capitalism."A specific pollutant is legally defined as "fully bio-mitigated" when;
"All new waste matter flow (for a particular toxin) is being absorbed at at rate equal to or greater than the flow of the waste AND being broken down into non-toxic substances."Step 2. Deposit the tax money from each specific pollutant into a corresponding escrow account for that particular pollutant. Issue an x-prize for the individual or group that can develop a bacteria that eats each specific pollutant at a rate faster than it is deposited into the environment. When the criteria is met, the money is released. Until then, the account builds an ever increasing cash value for payoff, eventually reaching hundreds of millions of dollars. Bacteria must be able to survive in biological conditions where the pollutant is found. One prize is issued for each environmental condition, and for each and every toxin. For example. Plastic may be found in landfill conditions or oceans. There is one bacteria for each chemical type of plastic there is, multiplied by the number of specific environmental conditions that each is found in. There is a corresponding small, trivial, tax for each chemical form of plastic, and a corresponding escrow account. In total there will be tens of thousands of accounts. An annual survey of the biosphere will have to be conducted to measure how fast bacteria is mitigating all the various pollutants.
Step 4. Once a particular bacteria is developed, deploy it in nature. Survey the environment to determine approximately how much waste is being mitigated. Issue new prizes for each specific pollutant until you judge that the various forms of bacteria you have bred are mitigating waste at a faster rate than new pollution is going in; until it is fully mitigated.
Step 5. Stop taxing fully mitigated pollutants. This will encourage the market to use materials that nature can metabolize by decreasing their relative costs.