Title: [GreenYes] INFO: landfilling mining begins in US, UK
The Times (London)
August 12, 2008 Tuesday
SECTION: HOME NEWS; Pg.17
LENGTH: 655 words
HEADLINE: High plastic prices raise prospect of rubbish mining
BYLINE: Lewis Smith, Jill Sherman
The value of second-hand plastic has risen so rapidly that mining
operations to dig it out of rubbish dumps are forecast to begin within
Waste suitable for recycling is already being dug out of landfill sites
in the United States and it is thought that commodity prices are on the
verge of making it a profitable option in Britain.
Rubbish dumps are regarded by the recycling industry as an untapped
source of riches with an estimated 200 million tonnes of plastic buried
as landfill since the late Eighties. At today's prices of £ 200 a tonne
the discarded plastic has a value of about £ 40billion and alongside it
are smaller, but still sigificant, quantities of valuable metals,
including copper and aluminium.
Peter Mills, of New Earth Solutions, a specialist in waste treatment and
recovery technology, said that small-scale operations to retrieve
discarded plastic from landfill were already being considered in Britain.
He said: "In the States they have gone back in and have been mining for
plastic and metal. Within the UK we have an eye on it. Within the next
decade, landfill mining in a controlled or limited basis is going to be
viable. It reflects the commodities market and the way prices are going."
Operations are likely to start as pilot schemes during remedial work on
landfill sites, which are designed with linings to prevent waste leaking
into the wider environment. So high have the price of commodities risen
in the past two years, especially oil, that recycled materials are
increasingly sought after. Plastics can be turned back into sheeting and
packaging more cheaply than by using virgin materials and with fewer
carbon emissions. They also have a high calorific value, so can be an
attractive source of fuel.
Mr Mills suggested that the value of plastic would soon rise high enough
that entrepeneurs would find it worthwhile to scoop out the estimated
three million tonnes that was swirling around the Pacific Ocean.
A further benefit of landfill mining is that once material has been
removed from the ground there will then be room to bury more waste.
Local authorities face a growing shortage of landfill space.
Peter Jones, an independent waste consultant, said: "If we dig up all
the landfill sites in the UK since the late Eighties we could lay our
hands on around 200 million tonnes of plastics. If we were going to do
landfill mining we would do it for the plastics."
He said that most of the 1,500 landfill sites used in the past three
decades had to be left for 20-30 years once they were closed to give
time for organic material to decompose and gases to escape - up to 70
per cent of methane emissions are syphoned off and used to provide
renewable energy. Because of this, he was convinced that most, if not
all, landfill mining in Britain would be delayed until after 2020.
Richard Woosnam, of Orchid Environmental, a waste consultancy, will join
Mr Jones this year in London at Britain's first landfill mining
conference, where they will outline its potential. "It has potential for
the future," Mr Woosnam said. "Plastics are a rich source of energy and
in the right type of system they can be... a valuable fuel."
Landfill sites from the Eighties onwards would be the first to be
considered for mining because there are good records of what is in them,
including the location of hazardous materials such as asbestos, and
because before then plastic was discarded in much lower quantities.
The forecast comes after The Times reported yesterday that the prices of
recycled materials, including plastic, paper and metal cans, had
increased greatly over the past six years. What was once considered to
be mere rubbish is now providing recycling companies with a valuable
source of income, but many local authorities have missed out on the
green bonanza because they are locked into disposal contracts that run
for between 20 and 30 years.
LOAD-DATE: August 12, 2008
The Observer (England)
August 10, 2008
SECTION: OBSERVER BUSINESS PAGES; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 1009 words
HEADLINE: Business & Media: Business: Where there's muck, there's brass.
And, even better, plastic: With oil prices sky-high and landfill taxes
rising, businesses and investors are finally starting to realise the
value of what we throw away, says Zoe Wood
BYLINE: Zoe Wood
Modern life is rubbish - it generates about 100 million tonnes of it a
year - and until recently not many firms wanted to get their hands
dirty. However, soaring oil prices and landfill tax mean the economic
benefits of recycling are starting to stack up.
Recycling has been a money-spinner for Disney's Pixar, whose film Wall E
features a robot left to clean up a litter-strewn and uninhabitable
Earth after humans have abandoned it. But the studio has been accused of
hypocrisy for launching a vast range of merchandise on the back of a
film with an eco-friendly message.
Back in the present day, however, 'the value of waste is now being
realised,' says Peter Mills, commercial director at New Earth Solutions
(NES), who reports the extreme phenomenon of 'landfill mining' in the
US. 'People are going back in - in New York they are excavating
landfill. That's something I've got one eye on here.'
Mills's company is backed by what is thought to be the first retail fund
purely focused on investing in UK recycling facilities. Launched last
month with a target of £ 15m, the fund will provide an investment pot
for the company, which works with local authorities and claims to be
able to recycle up to 60 per cent of the waste dumped on UK doorsteps.
The UK generates around 100 mil lion tonnes of waste a year from
household, business and industrial users. This week, figures from the
Office for National Statistics showed the household waste mountain
decreasing slightly - from 25.8 million tonnes in 2006 to 25.6 million
tonnes last year - with around 34 per cent of rubbish now recycled. That
meant the volume of waste sent by councils to landfill also fell
slightly, to 15.8 million tonnes from 16.9 million tonnes the previous
year. Environment minister Joan Ruddock described the figures as 'good
progress' but admitted 'we still have some way to go before we are
performing at the level of some of our nearest neighbours' on the
Continent. That is an understate ment. The UK is still considered the
dustbin of Europe, with only Greece sending more refuse to landfill.
Phil Conran, recycling development manager at Biffa - a major player in
waste management along with Veolia and Sita - points out recycling has
always had to pay its way, because firms are only prepared to collect
what is cost-efficient to recycle. 'A key factor will be landfill tax
going up,' he says. 'The key economic factors in recycling are the value
of the materials recovered and the cost of landfill. Because the latter
has been so cheap, there has been no financial benefit to the industry.'
However, Conran says this is changing: 'The cost of oil means the cost
of producing with virgin materials has gone up. There is now value in
keeping materials out of landfill, so the economic equation stands up.'
Landfill tax is currently £ 32 a tonne, but will increase by £ 8 a year
until 2011. Experts say that, once the gate fees charged at landfill
sites are added on top, the cost per tonne of waste could approach £ 100
- a levy comparable to that charged in Germany a decade ago. Germany
sends around 20 per cent of municipal waste to landfill, compared with
almost two-thirds in the UK.
Wrap, the government-funded agency, is keen to attract investors to the
recycling industry. It estimates the sector is worth about £ 12bn but
says that could reach £ 30bn within 15 years as UK and EU initiatives
gather pace. Steve Creed, director of business growth at Wrap, says that
once oil hit $75 a barrel - it is now around $119 - the cost of using
recycled plastic was on a par with buying new resin: 'The value of the
materials has started to have an impact on what people think, when five
years ago it didn't.'
Wrap points to success in recycling plastic bottles - with 182,000
tonnes a year now collected, equal to a third of the bottles used in the
UK. Part of that success must be linked to the raw material cost, with
the price of HDPE (high density polyethylene) having doubled to £ 200 a
Some retailers have complained that the reprocessing part of the
recycling industry has not kept pace with collection, meaning efforts to
introduce environment-friendly packaging are wasted. Consumers , too,
have been disappointed to discover that not all the plastic they
conscientiously sort into boxes is reincarnated because of the high
costs of extraction.
Creed says Wrap is now working on a strategy to address the problem.
'New technology is required to extract mixed plastics but it is close to
being available. The challenge is to encourage investors to look at the
sector. Waste has been seen as a 'dirty' area and more risky, but the
market has doubled in size over the past few years.'
The rising cost of extracting raw materials has also made the industry
pay more attention to the value of metals locked away in old TV sets and
computer monitors. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
Directive aims to stop hazardous electricals such as cathode ray tubes,
which contain lead, reaching landfill. But David Aitken, managing
director at GreenWorld Electronics, says consumers and businesses are
confused about how best to conform - and this ignorance has, according
to Greenpeace, resulted in toxic waste washing up in scrapyards in
Ghana, China and India. The campaign group is lobbying manufacturers to
introduce global recycling schemes that would shoulder the burden of
recycling old items, a plan Aitken supports: 'When a manufacturer sells
a piece of equipment there should be an automatic returns policy,' he says.
However, much of the activity in the sector is geared to tackling
municipal waste, as this is more closely tied to EU directives - and
because, as Mills says, 'if you go to a bank with a local authority
contract, it is as good as a government bond'.
NES has a £ 50m credit facility with German bank Nord, but Mills says
the current climate is making it harder for companies with new
technologies to get cash: 'There is a shortage of money in the system.
We had an advantage because we agreed our facility before the credit
LOAD-DATE: August 11, 2008
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