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Exploring the Future of Landfill Mining for Recycled Materials

The average American dumps 4.4 pounds of waste every day. It’s estimated that the US alone. produces 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste every year. The majority of this waste has been discarded into the land for more than 100 years (not including the five state-sized garbage gyres distributed throughout the ocean).

As the trash inside landfills decomposes, it releases methane gas. Methane is a known contributor to global warming and climate change. Moreover, landfills also degrade the quality of the surrounding soil.

With such visible threatening consequences of waste disposal in landfills, we need to start exploring ways to reverse the effects of our waste on the earth. One of the most ingenious solutions to this problem is landfill mining.

Landfill mining extracts and reprocesses materials found in older disposal sites. The ultimate aim of the process is to salvage reusable and recyclable materials that can be resold and/or remanufactured. Landfill mining operations are also used to remove hazardous waste, helping to restore soil quality and preserve public health.

Current techniques vary. Sometimes the process must be modified to address a specific need. In other cases, the sorting technologies decide the technique used. Common technologies in landfill mining applications include trommel, disc, or vibratory screens; magnetic separation and mass excavators. Increased funding for sustainable waste management will enable the exploration and development of new technologies that further sorting capabilities.

Although the practice of landfill mining is still in the developmental stages, it is already proving to be mutually beneficial with huge potential for widespread economic benefit, particularly as natural resources become scarce.

One of the key advantages of landfill mining is that it can be used to remove a number of hazardous materials from the landfills. As a result, it can help diminish landfill pollution, preserve soil quality and protect surrounding natural resources.

First, extracted reusable, recyclable or combustible waste can be sold at a hefty margin. From a long-term perspective, mining increases the land available for use after a site has been mined successfully. As technology improves, it is our hope that all items in the landfill are collected and recycled into durable new products. As technology improves and demand for sustainability increases, the potential for this is quickly becoming a reality.

Landfill mining has a lot to offer as it works towards becoming a more common practice. Several efforts, particularly in Europe, are helping to show that more efficient technologies and processes can substantially improve the cost-benefit balance.

Additionally, research indicates that with increased support from local residents, municipalities can more easily afford mining and maintain projects. People in many regions have proven willing to support these efforts to eliminate waste, protect public health and preserve the environment.

Interest in landfill mining will likely spike once space starts to dwindle. Based on research published Waste Management & Research journal, there are over 2 billion metric tons of waste generated annually, worldwide. With urbanization taking place at an alarming rate alongside population increases and unprecedented economic growth, the World Bank forecasts this amount to expand by 70 percent over the next thirty years. This means it’s only a matter of time before we run out of feasible places to put our garbage and need to start recycling it back into usable products and materials.

The sustainability implications of our current waste management system are straightforward. We’ve positioned ourselves for landfill mining and its associated technologies to become a necessity for the global waste management industry as space and resources are depleted. .

The good news for all of us is that economic incentives can help drive environmental and health benefits. As landfill mining continues to mature and evolve, we are optimistic to see greater mitigation of landfill use and an increase in the number of recyclable materials going forward thanks to the efforts of dedicated government organizations and companies such as TerraCycle.

Did you know that you can take part in the future of sustainability by starting your own recycling business? We’d be happy to give you some tips for getting started in this exciting emerging sector! Drop a line to to get started.