Landfill Mining, the Next Boom Industry?


photo: D'Arcy Norman

Search the TreeHugger archives and you’ll find countless articles on the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. While for many of us separating recyclable waste from trash destined for the landfill and food scraps for the compost pile, it obviously wasn’t always this way and, as Reuters recently reported, the world’s landfills are a potential gold-mine of salvageable waste.
Amount of Rubbish Set to Rise
Despite increased awareness about the virtues of recycling, according to the OECD, the amount of trash making it into landfills is expected to nearly double in the next two decades—from 1.6 billion tonnes per year in 2005 to 3 billion tonnes in 2030. The (slightly) good news is that the OECD also estimates that average recycling rates in the developed world will increase from about 50% today to 60% in 2030.

What's There Already Worth Billions
Thanks to rising oil prices, the value of all that plastic we've already absent-mindedly thrown into our landfills is really worth something. In Britain alone the landfills contain some 200 million tonnes of discarded plastic, which could be worth £60 billion ($111 billion) if recovered and recycled.

Chris Dow of Closed Loop London described the situation to Reuters,

Just imagine the resources that are lying in those landfills—it could be incredible. But the insane thing is that we are talking now about investing millions into tapping into a resource under the ground, when the real tragedy is that every week we’re still dumping tonnes and tonnes of plastic into more landfills. It’s an act of vandalism against the environment.

And James Kunstler thought it’d take a post-peak oil societal meltdown for people in the developed world to start scavenging trash heaps for resources...

via :: Reuters
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Tags: Plastics | Recycling | United Kingdom