There’s gold in them thar landfillsHello recycle-haulics welcome to the September column of “Ask the Recycle Guy.” Thanks for all the e-mails and keep the questions coming.
By: By Steve/‘The Recycle Guy’ Christen, Superior Telegram
Hello recycle-haulics welcome to the September column of “Ask the Recycle Guy.” Thanks for all the e-mails and keep the questions coming. Remember as a kid, those cheesy black and white westerns with Gabby Hayes and the rest of Hollywood back lot set? Remember when some bearded miner would claim “There’s gold in them thar hills?” Well a new version of that old expression is being tossed around in the waste industry. Mining landfills once thought of as crazy, is now becoming a reality. In the past, we have thrown away what now have become some very valuable items. Metals and plastics come to the forefront of what is buried in landfills that could be “mined” profitably here in the future.
In a recent study published by a nonprofit organization directed to shareholders of major corporations who are seeking responsible corporate action in the environment and social responsibility, “As you Sow,” claims that last year alone more than $11.5 million dollars of recycled material was buried in US landfills alone. A lot of us realize that scrap metal has a value. Simple sheet iron or low grade metals (found around the home) can bring upwards of $.10 per pound when taken to local scrap dealers. What most of us don’t realize is that plastics when they are ground to a specific specification can bring almost as much.
As an example, it is estimated that 25% of the food packaging is being used by people who are on the go. Stop and think about it, while driving you open a soda and consume a sandwich and when you are through with it you look to dispose of the contents before they become permanently adhered to the carpet under the passenger seat. While getting better, too often there are not any recycling opportunities easily available.
When plastic and scrap metal was first deposited in the landfills they had little or no value. It wasn’t that awfully long ago that scrap had no value and in fact in some cases you had to pay to get a local yard to take it. However, in the past decade or so the economies of China and India have awakened. (Marco Polo was quoted as saying “China is a sleeping giant, let her sleep, for when she awakes she will rule the world.”) These two booming economies currently take half of the world’s scrap and cement every year. This has given rebirth to salvaging materials that were once thought to be of no value.
The world is watching very closely at the first attempt to mine a landfill. The Remo Milieubeheer Landfill site is located 50 miles east of Brussels in Belgium. This landfill is located in an abandoned coal mine, and was established there in the early 60s. A U.K. company has formed a partnership with the landfill to dig up the estimated 16.1 million tons of debris. This project will commence in 2014 and will take 20 years to complete. When mining these ore bodies, the “core samples,” tell the mining company the value of their lease. The same is true when mining landfills. Core drillings were started in 2006 and continue to this day. They have already made the bold prediction that 45% of the material removed will be recycled. The rest of the refuse that is not recyclable will be turned into electricity. The landfill site itself will be reclaimed and property will be used for much needed commercial and residential high rise developments. Countries like China, India and Bulgaria are making plans to have representatives on site learning the ins and outs of above ground mining. A lot of Europe has been pretty well mined out.
The fact that these landfills are dense with resources that can be reclaimed gives a whole new life to the mining industry on the continent.
My call to action this month is to all you savvy investors. As our government has made a commitment to printing money to the tune of $40 billion a month until the economy recovers, look for the cost of essentials such as food and gas, to grow. At some point the major waste hauling companies like Waste Management, Allied and Republic are going to make a move to recapture the treasures they have been burying in landfills over the past 50 years. When you see a bearded old miner walking his mule down Moccasin Mike Rd. headed to the landfill, and when you hear the cry “There’s Gold in them thar landfills” coming from Wall Street, get ready to cash in.