Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mining Landfills Can Help Save the Environment

There seems to be endless benefits of recycling. The programs save money, energy, and trees. It generates 1.1 million in U.S. jobs, $236 billion sales annually, and $37 billion in salaries. The process reduces air and water pollutants and conserves natural resources. Most importantly, it keeps products out of landfills—but what will happen to the products already in landfills? That’s where landfill mining and reclamation comes in.

Landfill mining and reclamation is a process consisting of excavating and processing solid wastes that are currently in a landfill—in hopes of retrieving space, soil, and recyclable materials. The process, which dates back to the mid-1900s, aides in reorganizing landfills that are poorly operated or are not up to health codes.

Most landfills established prior to 1994 were closed off to seal the waste. In addition, many landfills were developed without linings to separate the landfill and original environment, meaning the waste can seep into the surrounding groundwater, harming land and unleashing legal liabilities.

Mining and reclamation begins by dividing the landfill content and excavating it onto different screens on a conveyor belt—large wastes are caught in the screen while soil falls through the small screen openings. Here is an example of a landfill mining process:

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This relatively new mining process helps bring the area to an environmental equilibrium, reduce the overall landfill’s size, and recover recyclables. Good candidates for landfill mining and reclamation processes are those where excavators can get an idea of how the landfill was created, the uses of potentially recovered materials, and the current condition of the waste.

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