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LETTER: What's the cost/benefit of recycling?

"If landfills were planned where, instead of layering higher and higher, each year it was moved to the next plot, and a new landfill begun, we could start a new process toward the efficient recovery of the valuable materials."
letter-sta

I appreciated the article on electronic recycling ("United Nations reports record mound of electronic waste," July 8 Gazette). Identifying the “gold mine” in materials that can be recycled, iron, copper and gold hopefully makes people think more about the hidden value in our waste.

The article states that Europe recycles 43 per cent of electronic waste, while North America only nine per cent. I would qualify that with the word “now”. I would like to see if there has been an analysis of the cost/benefit of staffing, sorting, maintaining a recycle center versus its ability to self-sustain with the proceeds of the materials gleaned from the waste.

Compare this to planning and managing a landfill by cities and towns, where everything is thrown in, (with an eye to the chemical management needed for water table safety). If landfills were planned where, instead of layering higher and higher, each year it was moved to the next plot, and a new landfill begun, we could start a new process toward the efficient recovery of the valuable materials.  

Cover last year’s plot, put down pipe system to capture the methane for use at the site. Plant trees over top. Each year, continue moving. The “gold” is still there. Support a program developing technology that will be able to one day dig up each site, and sort the different minerals and chemicals, profitably. The profit would be the towns' or cities' to share.

Say, in 50 years time, we return to site one. Harvest the trees. Mine the wealth. And start again. Oh, and this is where the “plastic never breaks down” becomes valuable. In 50 years, we should have the technology to reuse the carbons and chemicals that we store in the landfills, waiting for the day to be 100 per cent recycled, or as close to that as we can.  

Mining companies for years have closed operations on sites. Not because there isn’t any gold, silver or copper there – it just isn’t profitable. Yet. But, they know where it is.

Instead of sorting our waste, extra trucks, fuel etc., to pick up, or driving to the depot, fuel, emissions, why not just throw it all out? It’s like pennies in a piggy bank. Sorry, nickels.

Alan Otway,

Morinville




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