- Travis Wagner, a professor at the University of Southern Maine, estimates that there are over $114 billion in precious metals submerged in landfills across the United States. According to Bangor Daily News, Wagner said landfills are the next frontier for mining precious metals.
- ecomaine, a waste disposal company owned by 21 municipalities in southern Maine, operates the first successful trash-to-mine project at a local landfill. ecomaine estimates that 27,000 tons of metal shave been mined from the 240-acre landfill since 2011, metals valuing $2.3 million.
- An added benefit in metals mining is savings from reducing the volume of waste at the landfill. The mining operation removed 10,500 cubic yards of materials from the site, which works out to over $430,000 in cost avoidance.
The company uses a rare earth magneto extract metals from the site. By the end of the process, it is anticipated that 45,000 million tons of precious metals will be recovered from this landfill alone, waste that could be worth around $3.9 million.
Although mining metals from "raw" or "wet" garbage is currently risky, imprecise and expensive, researchers are investigating methods to make mining raw landfills more profitable. Precious metals recovery is anticipating rapid growth potential. The recycling industry expects great strides in rare earth excavation; current numbers show that as little as 12.5% of precious metals are recovered, reflecting the potential for a tremendous amount of growth in this sector.
"At some point, with basic economics, people are going to see the value in the return and they’re going to get into the wet areas," Wagner said.