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Landfill Mining: The Future Of Resource Extraction?

As we continue into the future and are becoming more desperate for renewable resources, there aren’t many options left. With more focus on climate change, landfills are getting a lot of attention. Because humanity has thrown all of their trash and even toxic waste into large piles, they’re quickly adding and filling up, and it’s hurting the environment.

As of right now, landfills are the third largest cause of methane pollution in the world, and landfills are causing cancer and other ailments to people on a global scale. Could these landfills that we all know can be damaging actually be able to help us in the long run, though? Back in the 1950s, what is now known as Ariel Sharon Park in Israel experimented with what’s known as landfill mining, and it’s going to be a lot more common in the near future.

Landfill mining is rather simple to explain. Instead of continuing to add onto the top of landfills, mining seeks to shrink the mass by taking out what can be reused and isn’t toxic. Landfills are excavated and sifted through, finding valuable materials that can be used again. Some of the major targets for landfill miners are aluminum and scrap metal. To do this, there are a few different methods that are currently used.

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Some landfills have a large magnet that is able to attract some of the more valuable goods before the landfill is sealed off for public safety. Others use an actual excavator to sort from the bottom to the top. When passing a landfill, you may have seen these methods being used before, but mining has gotten a lot of new attention. Surprisingly enough, this includes cryptocurrency.

Believe it or not, one energy company was able to raise millions of dollars to turn methane from landfills into a Bitcoin mining operation. This is because the methane from the landfills was instead used for turbines that generated crypto mining equipment. If cryptocurrency is able to maintain its popularity and versatility in the coming years, you can expect deals like this to become daily headlines.

Another futuristic way that landfill mining is heading toward better renewable resources is by turning some into hydrogen mines. In Oman, one project that’s estimated to be $1.4 billion is underway that is taking solid waste and converting tens of thousands of tonnes into hydrogen through a “thermo-chemical process…achieved without the use of external electricity or burning waste.”

Experts are predicting that because of landfill mining, we’ll be seeing the use of aluminum skyrocket in the near future. No other resource is easier to mine than aluminum, and our new technology is making it so that it’s also going to be the most reusable. That’s going to save a lot of money, too, with an estimated $800 million in aluminum thrown into the trash instead of properly recycled in the United States alone in just 2020.

Through the power of landfill mining, Dr. Subodh Das notes that the United States could save up to $400 million per year in aluminum alone. When you add in some of the other resources such as the valuable copper, zinc and steel, it’s easy to see why landfill mining is getting a big push as we move towards sustainable and renewable energy.

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