Landfill Mining

Teresa Madaleno

Urban growth and environmental concerns have spurned a new, emerging industry. It’s called landfill mining. Really it just means waste is a resource not a problem.

Environmental scientists and chemical engineers around the world are now agreeing that a significant portion of waste that is dumped in landfills can either be recycled as energy or reused as raw materials. Lets look specifically at waste that can be turned into fuel. For instance, the agriculture industry produces all kinds of organic matter and animal waste that can be diverted from landfills and turned into fuel. In recent years there have been a number of steps taken to strengthen the waste-to-fuel and waste-to-products industry.

Here are three approaches that seem to be gaining momentum according to clean Technica:

Pyrolysis – this is the chemical decomposition of organic, carbon-based materials through applying heat without oxygen. Pyrolysis of organic substances can produce a residue that is rich in carbon. Two commonly known products created through pyrolysis are biochar and coke. Biochar comes from heating wood and coke comes from heating coal. Soil experts have suggested that burying biochar in farm fields could act like a carbon storage holder, maintaining moisture and nutrients to boost crops. Also, the biochar could be buried for hundreds of years, which means it would be a way to sequester carbon emissions.
Hydrothermal synthesis – this is a synthesis method for growing single crystals from an aqueous solution in a thick-walled steel vessel at a very high temperature and pressure. This method of synthesis is less costly than conventional synthesis. It also requires less energy and is considered environmentally benign.
Gasification – is a group of chemical reactions that involves limited oxygen to transform a carbon containing feedstock into a synthetic gas or syngas. Using a tiny bit of oxygen the gasification process combines that oxygen with steam and cooks under immense pressure. The end result is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Gasification produces very little emissions and the syngas can be used to produce a number of clean energy products.

There are numerous start-ups around the world that have been working hard to divert waste from landfills. In many cases, instead of building huge, expensive refineries, these companies are working with smaller scale systems that fit their specific needs, as well as their potential customers’ needs. Furthermore, there are some companies that are both investing and buying new end products from bioproduct providers. For instance, some airlines invest in and buy biofuels.

Support for new, greener processes is growing every day. Due to the interest in bioproducts and the fact that they are creating new sources of revenue, stakeholders are beginning to come together in an effort to promote the progress of landfill mining.

Anything that you can divert from a landfill is considered landfill mining. You could say that Sparta is involved in this industry. Currently, the company diverts thousands of tonnes of electronic waste from landfills every month; materials that instead of going in the trash; are processed at Sparta’s ReECO Tech™ Electronic Conversions Ltd.