The circular economy: 10. Landfill is not a resource bank.
The science: It is certainly the case that we can “mine” old landfill sites to reclaim resources. Sometimes. Some of the resources. Not very efficient. Globally, maybe in excess of half the materials we enlist for use get lost to landfill or incineration. Nearly all the energy is lost.
The bad news: Globally, we are still geared up to derive energy form burning hydrocarbon fuels. We do have enough for decades, maybe a century, but they will increasingly expensive to extract and, we cannot get away from it, they produce greenhouse gas. Further, CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage is not likely to solve the global problem, ever.)
The good news: We can reduce waste in manufacturing. For example, we used to make solid furniture from solid wood, shaved down with the shavings discarded. Now, most domestic furniture is made by chipping nearly all the original timber and making strand board and MDF. High quality MDF really is a very useful material. Next step currently is to take discarded furniture and use it for Energy from Waste (EfW). Better still if we could collect it all and make new product out of it. If we could do that at local level to cut out the energy and pollution cost of long distance logistics, we really would be winning.
Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 29 May 2016