Mining our landfills for valuable recyclables

Filed in Waste News by on August 19, 2008 13 Comments
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one mans trash is another\'s treasure
Following a post on Peter’s environmental notes yesterday, I was alerted to an interesting interview over on the BBC.

It’s a short interview, well worth listening to, with Peter Mills, commercial director at New Earth Solutions.

His company is considering rubbish mining.

In the interview, you’ll hear how entrepreneurs such as Peter Mills, are waking up to the fact that hidden in our landfills are billions of tonnes of plastic and metal.

As raw materials become more expensive and fossil fuels run out, it seems there might just be money in mining our old rubbish for valuable recyclables.

Recycling rubbish already provides a living for some in developing countries; is that the next stage for the UK too?

According to Peter (from Peter’s environmental notes), a book written by Vance Packard, called β€˜The Waste Makers’, published in 1960 prophesied that ‘in the future’ we would be mining our rubbish dumps for the material we had thrown away when the natural resources that had been squandered had started to dry up……..

It looks like the future might be now.

What do you think when you hear about this?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (13)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,

    Aluminium cans in landfill do not corrode and with only 40% recycled this must be a prime target for NES. Steel cans and plastic recyclable will be there in abundance too.

    Reducing the size of landfill sites may allow further space for other waste.

  2. Oh now that actually makes a lot of sense. I wonder how much methane they could pipe out while they’re at it?

  3. Emma says:

    In a few hundred years I imagine that archaeologists will be fighting to hold off landfill mining operations long enough to excavate anything of historical interest that we threw away πŸ˜‰

  4. Sue says:

    What a briliant idea and hopefully once the big supermarkets and local councils hear there is money to be made from recycling they will provide more facilities.

  5. Ha, that is really brilliant isn’t it. I can’t wait ot see this entire recycling industry grow exponentially in the next few years.

  6. Mr Green says:

    I can’t help but think this could be a wake up call to remind us how valuable resources are. Are we really throwing out waste that we’ll be digging up in 2 decades or so?

  7. Tracey Smith says:

    Hi all – I had a very interesting conversation with a lovely bloke from the Composting Association. He was telling me there were plans afoot for ‘mining’ a landfill site!

    Can you just imagine?

    The stench for a start would be horrific, you’d need protective clothing and breathing apparatus too I reckon if you were that close, BUT, it could hold the key to a source of power (limited perhaps, but power nonetheless) from the useful gasses…

    I asked if I could come and play too and promise to report back if I’m allowed to go!


  8. Mrs Green says:

    Ewww Tracey; just don’t report back to me personally before taking a 3 minute shower, ok? πŸ˜€

  9. Tracey Smith says:

    Lolol – yea, I am planning on getting really FILTHY!

    3 minute shower?

    Not sure about that.

    Might need a wip wap by a beefy rugby player armed with a couple of old brillo pads…


  10. Mrs Green says:

    Surely a washable cloth with a squirt of Ecover would be more appropriate? πŸ˜€
    You can keep the beefy rugby player part though, as long as I can look πŸ˜‰

  11. Tracey Smith says:

    Actually – personally, I prefer a bit of NAKED….

    ….not that you norty people, THIS!



  12. Sue says:

    Checked out the naked bodycare website and was really impressed by it. I will definitely see if i can get my hands on some of their products the weekend. Thanks for the link Tracey.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    Yes, thank you Tracey – they seem to be good. It’s always nice to hear of new companies doing their thing for the environment

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