Across the globe, more than two billion tons of waste is dumped into landfills each year. And while landfills are certainly a necessity for the disposal of waste, the reality is that they often contain high percentages of material that could have been recycled or reused. As landfills run out of space and the ecosystem suffers, a new practice known as landfill mining aims to alleviate concerns.
What is Landfill Mining?
Specifically, landfill mining refers to a practice where existing landfills are mined for recyclable and/or reusable materials that were dumped there. As these materials are extracted from landfills, they can be sent to recycling centers, sold to scrap markets, or otherwise repurposed. The idea is that by removing recyclable/reusable materials from landfills, it is possible to free up space for additional waste while also helping the environment. In some cases, landfill mining can also be used to remove potentially dangerous materials (such as batteries and other hazardous waste) from landfills.
There are various methods for landfill mining, ranging from the use of large magnets and mass excavators to vibratory screens and trommels. The technique used in any given landfill mining project will depend on the exact type of waste being pursued, as well as the size and makeup of the landfill itself.
The Potential of Landfill Mining
There are many possible benefits to using landfill mining as a means of extracting recyclable and/or hazardous materials from landfills across the globe. In removing materials that should not be in landfills to begin with, it is possible to free up space. Because density/space issues are a real concern within landfills across the globe, this could be a huge benefit.
Meanwhile, removing materials from landfills through mining can also help to protect the environment by ramping up recycling efforts. Groundwater quality can also be protected, as hazardous materials that would otherwise break down and leach into groundwater can be removed through effective landfill mining practices.
What the Future May Hold
Only time will tell how practical and cost-effective land mining efforts will be, especially in the long run. There are currently a lot of concerns about the cost of land mining as a practice, as well as the potential implications of disturbing landfills and moving waste. There is some concern, for example, that disturbing landfills through mining could generate additional methane gas emissions, which could undermine the environmental goals of the practice. Ultimately, more studies will need to be done to determine whether landfill mining is a practical long-term solution for the planet’s waste crisis.
In the meantime, however, everybody can do their part by participating in a local recycling program; this can help to keep waste out of landfills. Likewise, following proper disposal procedures for hazardous materials can keep landfills safer and protect the environment (including local groundwater supplies). If everybody works to do their part, even the smallest of gestures can add up to make a huge difference for our planet and its future generations.