Economic Benefits of Landfill Mining Term Paper

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Yard Trimmings - 12.9%

Food scraps - 12.4%;

Plastics - 11.7%;

Rubber, leather and textiles - 7.3%

Metals - 7.6%

Wood - 5.5%

Glass - 5.3%

The following figure shows the number of landfills in the United States between 1998 and 2006

Number of Landfills in the United States 1998-2006

Source: EPA (1997)

The work of van der Zee and de Visser entitled: "Assessing the Opportunities of Landfill Mining" states: "Long-term estimates make clear that the amount of solid waste to be processed at landfills in the Netherlands will sharply decline in coming years. Major reasons can be found in the availability of improved technologies for waste recycling and government regulations aiming at waste reduction." (nd)

The work of Sperling and Hansen entitled: "Land Reclamation at Municipal Landfill Sites" states that municipal landfill closure presents a great challenge in terms of reclamation which involves multiple objectives including: (1) isolation of refuse; (2) minimization of leachate production; (3) prevention of erosion; (4) collection and disposal of landfill leachate and landfill gas; (5) return of the land to its' original state; (6) issues related to the application of biosolids as a topsoil amendment; and (7) closure and post closure environmental monitoring to continually ensure that the landfill impact on its surrounding are kept at acceptable levels until stabilization which is about 25 years post closure. (Sperling and Hansen, nd)

New York State's Environmental Facilities Corporation assist municipalities, businesses and state agencies for environmental projects and states that eligible components of a landfill construction or closure project include the following:

Double-composite landfill liner system;

Passive and active gas collection and control systems prior to the treatment or storage of the gas as a fuel or conversion to energy;

Leachate management, collection or removal systems including use of innovative gas control technologies;

Connection to municipal sewer system;

Stormwater runoff control and management facilities;

Landfill closure or capping system;

Landfill reclamation and/or reduction in place of landfill capping;

Side slope seepage prevention and control system;

Environmental monitoring wells and equipment;

Security fencing for the purpose of protecting water quality protection features;

Barge shelters, containment booms, litter fences and other means to prevent municipal solid waste from blowing off the landfill site and polluting surface waters; and Intermediate cover prior to final closure. (Environmental Facilities Corporation, 2006)

The work of Gary a. Forster entitled: "Assessment of Landfill Reclamation and the Effects of Age on the Combustion of Recovered MSW" states that one of the most significant resources in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is farmland. Therefore, one of the primary goals of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) is to "protect land by minimizing the space needed for landfilling. To achieve this goal the authority began the construction of a resource recovery facility (RRF) in 1989 to significantly reduce the volume of waste entering its Frey Farm Landfill. It also helped to establish recycling and waste reduction programs in the county. As a result of resource recovery and recycling, less than 12% of the volume of municipal waste generated in Lancaster County ends up at the Frey Farm Landfill for disposal." (Forster, 2001) Additionally related by Forster (2001) is: "The RRF began, in February 1991 other steps for preservation of the landfill space through excavation and incineration of waste that was buried in the landfill's first cell which was filled to a capacity. Excavation techniques are stated to range from "the bulk excavation phase to a 'strip-mining' technique" stated to be an approach, which involved "cutting a 50-ft.-wide x 150-ft.-long swath to a specific depth. Once this waste was trammeled, operations moved laterally to the next section, where the process was repeated. Excavation was done in this manner so that operations could be kept downgradient of the existing cut to aid in stormwater control Temporary berms were also placed around the upper edge of the stripped areas to enhance runoff. The strip-mining method also prevented the accumulation of methane in an excavated pit." (Forster, 2001) Forster (2001) states that economic benefits realized from landfill reclamation include those listed as follows:

LCSWMA Reclamation Weekly Cost/Revenue Summary



Project weeks


Total volume excavated (yd.3)

Ferrous sales

Average excavated weekly (yd.3/wk.)

Electricity sales

Total tons excavated per week


Total tons reclaimed ton reclaimed

Average tons reclaimed weekly


Tons of cover soil recovered per week ton reclaimed

Tons of noncombustibles landfilled per week


Net volume recovered (yd.3/wk.)

Reclaimed soil (1,076 tons @ $2/ton)


Reclaimed landfill volume (yd.3)


Current value @ $11/yd.3)





Refuse transport to RRF

4,943 ($3.35/ton)

Asset additions + net revenues ($/wk)





Average LF HHV (Btu/lb)

OMSL fee ($/ton waste processed)

4,471 ($3.03/ton)

Ash tons per week

586 (352 yd.3)

Host fee ($/ton processed + ash tons landfilled)

2,441 ($1.65/ton)

Ferrous tons per week

Ash transport to landfill ($/ton)

1,846 ($3.15/ton)

Electricity (kWh, 2-year average)


Reclaimed material

3568 kWh/ton


21,862 ($14,81/ton)

Source: Forster (2001)


The work of van der Zee, Achterkamp, and de Visser entitled: "Assessing the Opportunities of Landfill Mining" lists the benefits and costs of the reclamation of a landfill. Stated as benefits is an increase in disposal capacity, which is needed greatly throughout the world. Further stated as benefits is avoidance or reduction of the costs of:

1) Landfill closure;

2) Post-closure of additional capacity or sophisticated systems;

3) Liability for remediation of surrounding areas. (van der Zee, Achterkamp, and de Visser, 2003)

Benefits also include the revenues from:

1) Recyclable and reusable materials;

2) Combustible waste sold as fuel; and 3) Reclaimed soil used as cover materials, sold as construction fill or sold for other uses; and 4) the last stated benefit is the benefit of land value of sites that have been reclaimed for other uses. (van der Zee, Achterkamp, and de Visser, 2003)

The costs of landfill reclamation is stated to include expenses incurred in project planning. Capita costs are stated to include: (1) site preparation; (2) rental or purchase of reclamation equipment; (3) rental or purchase of personnel safety equipment; (4) construction or expansion of materials handling facilities; (5) rental or purchase of hauling equipment.

Operational costs include: (1) labor; (2) equipment fuel and maintenance; (3) land filling non-reclaimed waste or noncombustible fly and bottom ash if waste material is sent off site for final disposal; and (4) Administrative and regulatory compliance expenses; (5) worker training in safety procedures; and (6) hauling costs. (van der Zee, Achterkamp, and de Visser, 2003)

The work entitled: "Costs and Benefits of Recycling for North Carolina" states "Most people choose to recycle for its environmental benefits. However, environmental benefits are not the only criteria society uses to select policies and actions. When decisions are made, economic impacts frequently take precedence over environmental benefits; or they receive equal weight, at least. The private sector especially must justify most decisions according to their effects on the bottom line."(Costs and Benefits of Recycling in North Carolina, nd) One of the economic benefits associated with landfill mining is the creation of jobs. The report stats that more than 8.700 people in North Carolina are employed in the recycling industry. Whereas the collection and disposal of 30,000 tons of solid waste along with the resource extraction create only 14 jobs, the recycling of the same quantity of material creates 100 jobs in North Carolina. In other words, recycling creates jobs at seven time the rate of resource extraction plus disposal." (Costs and Benefits of Recycling in North Carolina, nd) Further stated is that recycling companies in North Carolina have "added new jobs at six times the rate of all private industry in the last four years." (Costs and Benefits of Recycling in North Carolina, nd) the following chart illustrates job creation from recycling vs. disposal and virgin extraction.

Job Creation From Recycling vs. Disposal and Virgin Extraction

Source: (Costs and Benefits of Recycling in North Carolina, nd)

Cost savings are realized when private sector companies recycle to save waste management and disposal costs.


The work entitled: "Economic Impact of Municipal Solid Waste Management in West Virginia" states that individuals who are not "directly associated with the implementation and maintenance of environmentally sound integrated solid waste management systems often are skeptical about the economic soundness of landfill reclamation programs and recycling benefits. Findings stated in the report are that the following economic benefits are realized in the state of West Virginia concerning solid waste management:

Solid waste collectors, transfer stations, composting facilities, recycling centers and landfills in West Virginia paid an estimated $60 million dollars in wages and salaries in 2005;

These businesses maintained an estimated 2,079 jobs with a relatively high average weekly salaries ranging from $496 to $610; compared to an average weekly salary in the retail…

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