Landfill Mining - Prospecting For Plastic  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Reuters reports that the high oil price has made old dumps a fertile ground for plastic hunters - Could $100 oil turn dumps into plastic mines?.

Sparked by surging oil, a dramatic rise in the value of old plastic is encouraging waste companies across the world to dig for buried riches in rotting rubbish dumps.

Long a symbol of humanity's throw-away culture, existing landfill sites are now being viewed as mines of potential which as the world population grows could also help bolster the planet's dwindling natural resources.

"By 2020 we might have nine billion people on the planet, we could have a very big middle class driving millions more cars, and we could be in a really resource-hungry world with the oil price climbing and a supply situation in Libya, Russia and Saudi where natural gas is limited," said Peter Jones, one of Britain's leading experts on waste management.

"It is those drivers, those conditions, which will encourage the possibility of landfill mining."

In Britain alone, experts say landfill sites could offer up an estimated 200 million tonnes of old plastic -- worth up to 60 billion pounds at current prices -- to be recovered and recycled, or converted to liquid fuel.

As many oil analysts predict oil prices will stay above $100 a barrel, waste experts in America, Europe and across Asia have been conducting pilot projects to recoup old plastic and other waste materials.

Prices for high quality plastics such as high-density polyethelenes (HDP) have more than doubled to between 200 and 300 pounds ($370-560) per tonne, from just above 100 pounds a year ago, according to experts in the waste industry.

3 comments

That's a great post, Gav.

I've seen the poverty-stricken scouring landfills trying to carve a meagre existence for themselves, but I'd never imagined there'd be such a fortune buried in these dumps that not only could big business thrive, but it could actually go a long way to helping us save the planet!

That's excellent. Really. All that garbage that has been such a threat to us could now be as much of a saviour as a villain.

Mind you, I wouldn't fancy one of the jobs digging down through decades of garbage to uncover those hidden gems.

Still, great post.
Steve N. Lee
author of eco-blog http://www.lionsledbysheep.com
and suspense thriller 'What if...?'

Anonymous   says 11:17 AM

I was talking to someone about three years ago about the very limited plastic recyling we had and suggested we should be saving it all so we could make oil out of it in the future.

As usual it takes a high oil price before people bother to look at efficiency measures.

Its a lot more expensive to mine landfills than it is to do recycling properly - but you need to invest time and effort setting up the infrastructure.

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