Landfill sites contain £360bn of metal
A team of scientists from Cranfield University reckons up to £90m of valuable metals could be hidden in every UK landfill site.
With an estimated 2000 landfill sites operating in this country, that means about £180bn worth of metal is lying buried. Or double that figure to £360bn if you include landfill sites that are now mothballed.
But before this sparks a stampede of speculators greater than the California gold rush of 1849, it’s worth digging a little deeper into the research.
When the scientists analysed samples from four landfill sites, they found metals that could be worth a total of £360m. This included £260m of copper and aluminium, £92m of palladium and £5m of neodymium.
While the copper and aluminium certainly has a value and should not be sent to landfill, is palladium and neodymium worth recycling?
Waste management professional Dr Stuart Wagland, who worked on the project, says: "There is clearly potential value in our landfills, considering we only looked at the soil-like materials within the landfill sites. It is unlikely that the recovery of only rare earth elements and critical metals would be economically viable, however recover copper and aluminium and it starts to make sense."
What is palladium?
The waste material the researchers refer to isn’t the venue in London’s West End that plays host to the great and the good from stage and screen – including Cilla Black before her recent death – at Royal Variety Shows.
The palladium the research at Cranfield University – which lies on the other side of the M1 from Milton Keynes – identifies is a soft silver-white metal that is part of the platinum group.
But palladium is not exactly a precious metal. Over half its supply is used in catalytic converters, which remove the harmful elements of car exhaust emissions.
And what about neodymium?
This material is used to make the strongest commercially available magnets in the world and are used in everything from hard drives to headphones.
The magnets are so powerful that if a human got caught between two of the strongest examples, the magnets would almost certainly win.
Just take a look at what happens to a few everyday objects caught between two neodymium magnets...
Landfill sites in the UK contain large quantities of neodymium because of the amount of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment that was dumped before the European Union WEEE Directive was introduced in 2002.
And the considerable weight of aluminium is explained by the fact that long before the recycling of soft drinks and beer cans became part of our everyday behaviour, most were sent straight to landfill sites.
But Dr Wagland, a lecturer in renewable energy from waste at Cranfield, points out that landfill mining has benefits beyond resource recovery. He says: "The land can be reclaimed, removing the long-term management issues of sites."
Here at ProSkips, our approach to recycling has been developed on principles of economic and environmental sustainability. We support the halving waste to landfill scheme and always aim to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill wherever possible each year.
This is why we are committed to working with our residential and commercial customers to increase the quality and quantity of materials that are removed through the provisions of our skip hire services throughout the UK. Our depots separate the different waste streams and recycle many materials, including WEEE, wood, metal, cardboard and paper.
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