High oil prices in future could spur plastic mining from dump sites
Sustained high oil prices on into the future could prompt entrepreneurs and scavengers to seek oil and oil derivatives from plastic items long ago thrown away in landfills, according to waste experts. “By 2020 we might have 9 billion people on the planet … and we could be in a really resource-hungry world with the oil price climbing and a supply situation … where natural gas is limited,” said waste-management guru Peter Jones. “It is those drivers, those conditions, which will encourage the possibility of landfill mining.” The potential for useful-materials recovery from landfills is huge, including reuse and recycling of metals as well as a vast wealth of buried plastics. Experts estimate that even just in Britain, some 200 million tons of old plastic could potentially be recovered from landfills for recycling or conversion into fuel; at today’s prices, such a bounty would be worth some $110 billion. “Once plastic is in a landfill site, it pretty much sits there doing nothing — and the beauty of that is that you’re able to go back and recapture it in the future,” said Peter Mills of recycler New Earth Solutions.