Why Garbage Is Golden

Years ago I forwarded an article from Audubon magazine to Eric Lombardi, executive director of Eco-Cycle in Boulder, because I thought he would be interested in hearing about a landfill being reclaimed (I think it was on Martha’s Vineyard). It was considered to be an easy reclamation project because the landfill contained no toxic materials.

Now comes Advanced Plasma Power, a British company, which has a contract to reclaim the contents of a Belgian landfill, recycle what can be recycled, and convert the methane produced by the decomposition of the remaining products into energy. The project will be operational in 2014 and will last for 30 years.

I love it. It’s my dream that rising prices for electronic parts and glass and metals will make it profitable to get the goods from landfills. And Tim Webb, the author of my source article in the Guardian, seems to agree:

The idea of digging up old rubbish is not new. The chief executive of one British landfill operator told the Guardian he had considered it 15 years ago. But the increasing shortage of landfill space, a need to produce more electricity renewably and higher metal prices are now combining to make firms consider it more seriously.

According to the article, the idea is taking off in Europe because of a shortage of landfill space. The United States probably has more room for landfills than Europe, but nobody wants them around. NIMBYism could make these kinds of projects possible.

Of course, removing items from a landfill is not without problems. The trash may include toxic materials such as asbestos, and methane can explode.

Yet another reason to recycle everything.

Source: “Why Landfill Mining Could Be the Next Big Thing,” Tim Webb, Guardian, October 11, 2010