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Old Posted Sep 8, 2011, 8:32 PM
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Trash To Cash: Mining Landfills For Energy And Profit

Trash To Cash: Mining Landfills For Energy And Profit

Read More: http://www.fastcompany.com/1778461/h...e-on-everyones

About 50 miles east of Brussels, next to an old coal mine, lies a festering stinkhole that few people ever visit, and most people would rather forget about. Dating from the 1960s, the Remo Milieubeheer landfill at Houthalen-Hechteren is a typical dump full of industrial waste and household garbage--16.5 million tons of it in all. Hardly the sort of the place to get anyone excited. Except, that is, Patrick Laevers, director of Group Machiels, the Belgian waste management company that owns the site. Laevers has a 20-year plan to excavate the entire expanse, recycling about 45% of its contents, and converting the rest into electricity.

Eventually, after a complex, multi-phase process he calls “Closing the Circle,” he hopes to turn the site back to nature. What's more, Laevers thinks Houthalen-Hechteren could be the first of many such projects around the world. “We really believe this concept is the future, and that we can all benefit from it,” he says.

Group Machiels first began researching the idea of landfill mining back in 2006, in cooperation with three academic partners. Since then, it has collected 2,000-3,000 tons of material for testing, assessing each area of site for recycling and energy-generation value. Laevers says Machiels had fairly detailed records of what had been dumped where over the years. But it needed to find out how much different materials had decomposed over that time.


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