Landfill Mining Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4223 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues


Recycling has become a big industry, employing many individuals across many various sectors of materials of recyclables and across a range of various recycling or reclamation efforts. One of these sectors in recyclable or reclamation is the landfill reclamation sector, which recycles various materials including metals, gases, detergents, as well as others. Each of the sub-areas of landfill reclamation is combined with a process referred to as 'soil amendment recovery', that is a process of sifting ferrous and other materials from the soil. Mining is known to be a "very toxic business" however, recycling which is called an "old solution to a new problem" has recycling businesses flourishing and specifically noted in the work of Schmidt (2001) is that the metal scrap industry is very productive. Many minerals are available for reclamation and as stated in Schmidt: "Only 30% of the world's zinc supply is composed of recycled zinc. The USGS estimates that around 500,000 tons of zinc is landfilled every year; at the same time only 368,000 tons of zinc is recycled." (2001) Schmidt notes the work of Plachy (2000) in the U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries who relates the importance of recycling to the U.S. economy stating that in 1996, "...the remanufacturing industry in the United States employed 10 times as many workers as metals mining did. At the same time, it earned $53 billion more than the entire consumer durables industry combined." (Schmidt, 2001)

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Term Paper on Landfill Mining Assignment

Landfill mining was first spoken of in a 1953 article on the processes that had been used at a landfill operated in Tel Aviv, Israel. The objective of landfill reclamation in Tel Aviv was excavation of the waste "for the recovery of soil amendment." (Strange, nd) the process involved excavation of the material and transportation to a conveyor belt. The material was then transferred by the conveyor belt and "material that passed through the screen opening was used as soil amendment, and material that was retained in the screen was taken by conveyor belt to a resource recovery area where manual separation was used to recover ferrous metals and other recyclable materials." (Strange, nd) Between 1950 and 1980 two developments in the United States affected landfill mining and the first being "the emergency of a modular processing system designed to process mixed waste as it arrive at landfills or at transfer stations, primarily for the purpose of recovering steel containers." (Strange, nd)

The second development was one that "dealt with an assessment of the technical feasibility of composting landfilled municipal solid waste in situ...[and]...involved the construction of especially designed cells in a landfill..." during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Due to shortcomings in the project's technical feasibility, it was not implemented fully. Other problems involved fires due to spontaneous combustion in some of the cells. This study contributed to the knowledge of the importance of modular cell structure in landfills. Landfill mining and reclamation feasibility is determined by site-specific conditions of a prospective location and include the following 'key' conditions:

1) Composition of the waste initially put in the landfill;

2) Historic operating procedures;

3) Extent of the degradation of the waste; and 4) Types of markets and uses for the recovered materials. (Strange, nd)

The benefits of landfill are both economical and environmental and include the following benefits:

1) Use of recovered soil fraction as landfill cover material;

2) Recovery of secondary materials;

3) Reduction of landfill footprint, and therefore, reduction in costs of closure and post-closure; and 4) Reclamation of landfill volume for reuse. (Strange, nd)


According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency: "Landfill reclamation is a relatively new approach used to expand municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill capacity and avoid the high cost of acquiring additional land." (1997) Landfill reclamation costs are many times able to be "offset by the sale or use of recoverable materials, such as recyclables, soil and waste, which can be burned as fuel." (U.S. EPA, 1997) Other benefits stated include: "avoided liability through site remediation, reductions in closure costs and reclamation of land for other uses." (U.S. EPA, 1997) There are also negative aspects of landfill reclamation such as possible release of gases such as methane from decomposition of waste. Furthermore, the possibility exist of unearthing hazardous materials, "which can be costly to manage." (U.S. EPA, 1997)

There are various methods used for landfill reclamation. One method is excavation in which an excavator empties the contents of the landfill and a front-end loaders is used in separating bulky material. A second method used in landfill reclamation is soil separation, which is a screening process in which a trammel, a revolving cylindrical sieve, or vibrating screens are used in separating soil from solid wastes in the excavation material. Prior to beginning a landfill reclamation project it is important that facility operators make careful assessments including the following U.S. EPA recommended approach: (1) consult a site characterization study; (2) assess potential economic benefits; (3) investigate regulatory requirements; (4) establish a preliminary worker health and safety plan; (5) assess project costs. (U.S. EPA, 1997) Potential economic benefits in landfill reclamation initiatives are stated to be of an indirect nature.


Economic benefits realized from landfill reclamation projects are stated to be specific to each facility however, benefits may include:

1) Increased disposal capacity;

2) Avoided or reduction in costs of:

a) Landfill closure;

b) Postclosure care and monitoring;

Purchase of additional capacity or sophisticated system; and d) Liability for remediation of surrounding areas. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

Revenues may be realized from:

1) Recyclable and reusable material such as ferrous metals, aluminum, plastic and glass;

2) Combustible waste sold as fuel; and 3) Reclaimed soil used as cover material, sold as construction fill, or sold for other uses. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

Benefits are also realized due to land value of sites reclaimed for other uses. It is critically important that landfill reclamation projects establish preliminary worker health and safety plans. While the health and safety program for the landfill reclamation should be site-specific, the following is a list of typical health and safety program considerations:

Hazard communication to inform personnel of potential risks;

Respiratory protection measures, including hazardous material identification and assessment; engineering controls; written standard operating procedures; training in equipment use, respirator selection, and fit testing; proper storage of materials; and periodic reevaluation of safeguards;

Confined workspace safety procedures, including air quality testing for explosive concentrations, oxygen deficiency, and hydrogen sulfide levels, before any worker enters a confined space (e.g., an excavation vault or a ditch deeper than 3 feet);

Dust and noise control;

Medical surveillance stipulations that are mandatory in certain circumstances and optional in others;

Safety training that includes accident prevention and response procedures regarding hazardous materials; and Recordkeeping. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

Protective equipment that workers are required to wear in case of hazardous waste include the following three categories of equipment:

Standard safety equipment including hard hats, steel-toed shoes, safety glasses and/or face shields, protection gloves, and hearing protection;

Specialized safety equipment including chemically protective overalls, respiratory protection and self-contained breathing apparatus;

Monitoring equipment including a combustible gas meter, a hydrogen sulfide chemical reagent diffusion tube indicator and an oxygen analyzer. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

Information required in planning include the following capital costs:

site preparation;

rental or purchase of reclamation equipment;

rental or purchase of personnel safety equipment;

Construction or expansion of materials handling facilities;

Rental or purchase of hauling equipment. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

Operational costs include:


Equipment fuel and maintenance;

Landfilling nonreclaimed waste or noncombustible fly and bottom ash if waste material is sent off site for final disposal;

Administrative and regulatory compliance expenses;

Worker training in safety procedures; and Hauling costs. (U.S. EPA, 1997)

The work entitled: "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006" states that in 2006 alone "Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled 82 million tons of materials, which is 32.5%." (EPA,

The following chart depicts the municipal solid waste generation rates beginning in 1960 and ending in 2006.

MSW Generation Rates 1960-2006

Source: EPA (1997)

The following chart depicts the municipal solid waste recycling rate during the same period-of-time.

MSW Recycling Rates 1960-2006

Source: EPA (1997)

Trash in the United States is "made up of things we commonly use and then throw away. These materials range from packaging, food scraps, and grass clippings to old sofas, computers, tires and refrigerators. It does not include industrial, hazardous, or construction waste." (EPA,

The following chart depicts the percentages of recycling rates of selected material in 2006.

Recycling Rates of Selected Materials (2006)

Source: EPA (1997)

Management of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2006 is stated by the Environmental Protection Agency report to be the following categories and percentages for each category: (1) Discarded - 55.0%; (2) Recovery - 32.5%; and (3) Combustion with Energy Recovery - 12.5%. (EPA, 1997) Municipal waste material composition generation… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Landfill Mining" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Landfill Mining.  (2008, March 15).  Retrieved February 22, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Landfill Mining."  15 March 2008.  Web.  22 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Landfill Mining."  March 15, 2008.  Accessed February 22, 2020.