Humans are very good at generating waste and very bad at dealing with it. The city of Toronto exports dozens of truckloads of trash every day.
Basically for this idea, a company would be set up that would create a very secure facility for accepting garbage. As high a rate as possible would be charged for dumping, and obviously care would be taken that no toxins leak into nearby groundwater or otherwise poisoned the local environment (as much as could be avoided when you’re operating a garbage dump – I imagine that some things are unavoidable).
Even if it was just making enough to cover costs, the facilities that accept the garbage would be grown as quickly as possible and would take in as much garbage as possible. Profits from operation would be rolled back into growth.
Long term, the business would count on two things happening: 1) resources increase in cost as they become most difficult to extract from natural sources and 2) technology to reclaim resources for manufactured items improves.
Over time, as elements in the garbage dump increase in value, some will eventually hit the point where they can be extracted from the dump at a profit. At this point, while safely storing the waste is an ongoing concern for the business, the garbage is treated as a mine. Valuable parts are removed, processed, and sold at a profit. On an ongoing basis, waste can continue to be accepted and stockpiled for future times when it may become economical to reclaim them.
Some elements, like toxic biological waste, might never be cost-effectively reclaimed. This would be a part of the business, and these elements would just have to be safely contained while extracting valuables mixed with them, then safely stored again.
Certainly anyone who owns a dump would be delighted to mine it if it ever became cost effective to do so. Dumps currently do this by charging people to take things they find, and actually post guards to prevent garbage pickers. The core of this idea is just to look at the economics of running a dump, and factor in changes in technology that may change the future value of what you’re accepting (changing it from something that costs money to accept now to something that is worth money in the future). There may be approaches to storage that may make future extraction easier, which could be done to plan for the future.
It *might* be possible to be paid to accept existing dumps (where the company takes on the future responsibility of maintaining them). These could be happily entered into, with the knowledge that the business you’re building is specialized in reclaiming resources, and each of these sites would represent future profits.
I don’t really know anything about garbage treatment, storage or disposal. This consideration may already be factored into waste management. I know that recycling right now, even when end users sort things, isn’t cost effective for anything other than aluminum. In impoverished countries, often dumps are viewed as a resource by some of the poorest-of-the-poor who make a living digging out items of value from it. I’m convinced this equation will change in the future, and an automated solution for doing the same will be worthwhile in a western context.
For this post, or any other of the wacky business ideas I post, obviously I’m releasing any ownership claims I may have over these ideas. If you like something I post and feel like you can make money from it, please feel free to do so! Let me know when you’re opening and we’ll do a post on it to give you some free advertising.
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