Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
Content copyright © 1995 - 2013 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk
Please visit the sponsor!
Some years ago I wrote a column in which I suggested that one of the best investments anyone could make, was to buy an old rubbish tip.
For a decades, these rubbish dumps serve as a repository for all our waste -- much of it being inorganic enough not to decay or degrade once it's locked away beneath metres of earth.
So why will yesterday's junk become tomorrow's gold?
Simple -- we're running out of raw materials and energy.
I decided to revive the concept of "junk mining" after reading this Daily Mail story which highlights the finite nature of many materials we currently take for granted.
Although there are now some rather rudimentary recycling programmes in place for electronic items and other things that may contain environmentally "harmful" components -- yesterday's dumps already contain a literal gold-mine of valuable metals and polymers.
Anyone who gets the mining rights for such areas will eventually find that their underground booty is worth reclaiming.
As we move ever-closer to peak oil (if we haven't passed it already), we'll find that the raw material needed to make the mountains of plastic items we've come to rely on will become ever-more expensive.
At some stage, it will become cost-effective to rip open those old rubbish dumps and pull out all those plastic bags, bottles, containers and other sources of polymers. Sooner or later, the price of oil will make the recovery these long-buried piles of recyclable materials a viable option.
Let's not forget also that for decades we have been throwing our old transistor radios, television sets, stereos and all manner of other electronic componentry into the rubbish bin. When gold was just a couple of hundred dollars an ounce it simply wasn't economic to try and recover the small amounts of this precious metal that was contained in most of those devices. Now that the gold price is hovering around all-time highs, such recovery may well be worth the effort.
With this in mind, and a general concern for the best interests of the planet, I suspect that the "rubbish tip" as we have come to know it, will soon be just a memory.
Back in the 1970s, you could throw absolutely anything into the yawning chasm that was the local dump. Batteries, fridges (laden with CFCs), drums of engine-oil and un-used herbicide -- nobody cared!
Today however, we're already seeing forced separation of our waste.
"Toxic" lead-acid batteries have to be stacked neatly in a pile, containers of nasty fluids such as oil, solvents, etc have to be quarantined into another pile, old fridges have to be carefully treated and their ozone-killing CFCs recovered before scrapping.
I'm picking that in a very few years time, our rubbish disposal areas will be much different to what they are today.
Anything that might have a value in raw materials will be recycled.
Anything that might be remotely toxic will be disposed of in special high temperature furnaces or whatever -- with the heat being used for energy generation.
All biomass will be stored in a large sealed area and the methane produced by its gradual decomposition will be used as an energy source.
Much of this is already happening in many areas of course -- but a complete package of waste-handling will soon become an enforced requirement.
Because we're rapidly reaching the point where we simply can't afford to throw anything away.
I expect that future generations will look back on the past few decades as an era of wanton excess and disregard for the future -- as we frittered away the planets resources without a thought for the needs of our children and grandchildren.
What happens if, when they go to the great storehouse that is the planet earth, the cupboards are bare -- or the tiny amount of key raw materials remaining are so precious that nobody can afford to use them?
Please visit the sponsor!
Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines
Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.