The punitive landfill tax is hitting hard. Sending waste to landfill sites has become increasingly expensive in the UK. Recycling rates have improved, but more needs to be done to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.  

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'Urban mining' is a term we all need to be aware of in the drive to limit the amount of waste materials going into landfill. Urban mining is the process of reclaiming valuable materials, such as copper, gold and aluminum, from the waste that's going into landfill. A growing number of initiatives are being setting up, recognising cities and other urban areas as 'mines'.  

So what should we be 'mining'? Electronic goods, for example. These contain many component parts (precious metals) which are reusable, and yet much of this reusable material is languishing in landfill sites.  

To put this into context, more than 200 million tonnes of waste is being generated every year in the UK, approximately 2 million tonnes of which is Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). And it's this which concerns urban mining.  

Every time a company – large or small – has a clear out of their computers and any other electronic goods, there is an automatic tendency to throw those unwanted goods directly into landfill. But if businesses employ waste management companies to oversee the responsible destruction of unwanted electronic goods, the precious metals inside them can also be reclaimed.  

For businesses in the UK, landfill tax must be paid on top of the usual landfill fees if waste is being sent to landfill. Changes in UK regulations have made waste disposal more expensive. At the same time, the mining of precious materials from scratch is more expensive and problematic than simply extracting it from used equipment which would otherwise be thrown away.

The electronics industry uses scrap gold in the manufacturing of new goods, such as laptops. If gold components are recycled from goods which are essentially for the scrap heap, they can be reused by electronic goods makers.   

Not only is urban mining an environmentally-friendly way forward, but it saves energy and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It will also unlock all the precious materials that might otherwise be going to waste and see them repurposed.  

Urban mining isn't just focused on recycling. It's about continuing to find the most efficient and effective ways to reclaim vital materials from the huge quantities of goods, electronic goods in particular, that are thrown away every year.  

As part of the Prowaste Management Services, it's our business, through skip hire and collection, to minimise the amount of waste being sent to landfill every year. From metal recycling to paper recycling, we can take care of all your waste management and skip hire needs. Contact us today. 

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