Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Build mines from garbage

Build new mines for our descendants
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For the last couple thousand years, we've been emptying our existing resource mines of everyting from coal to silver to uranium. It's pretty clear that all of the easy to get to mines are going to be tapped out in a short span of geological time.

At the same time, we're burying trash in nice shallow pits around the world. Unfortunately, the trash is dumped into landfills higglety pigglety. What we need is a trained corps of garbage dump professionals (probably from Mexico city or those ship wrecking beaches in India). As new trash comes it, it can be sorted and put into new contiguous zones of plastic, tinfoil, diapers, &etc.

A couple dozen years or decades from now, these new plastic & circuitboard seams will be the new treasure mines. Doubtless some of the trash will be lost to peculation and recycling, but given our current efficiency, the majority will be there for our descendants

tenhand, Dec 22 2000


       I was not aware of any impending iron, tin, or aluminum shortage, probably because people figure we'll run out of power (and our ability to mine) some time before we run out of those materials.
centauri, Dec 22 2000

       I've long wondered if there's any value to be gained by shredding everything that is later put into a landfill. Would this create too much gas by anærobic fermentation and blow the lid on some dumps?
reensure, Dec 22 2000

       Predictions of resources exhaustion have a pretty hilarious history. Everyone from Malthus through the Club of Rome have managed to embarrass themselves badly in this area, and it's so far proven the richest source of badly mistaken predictions outside of apocalyptic religion. There's not too much reason to worry about the next "couple dozen years and decades".   

Monkfish, Dec 22 2000


       Most of the worrying so far has also been about non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, not about recoverable and recyclable ones like metals. There is always some loss in recovery, though, so maybe in the distant future there could be the beginnings of shortages of certain elements. The market can deal with most of this sort of thing through substitution (where possible) and things of that nature, though, and it's anyway far enough in the future that it's impossible to know what will be going on (and to care about -- remember, "in the long run, we're all dead").   

       Anyway, all that to one side, if you are going to go to the trouble of sorting and organizing garbage at great expense, why not just recycle it while you're at it and leave more metal in the ground? Get some immediate benefit while leaving something behind for the chumps who will succeed us. You could do this today by imposing taxes on primary industry to reflect environmental damage and what-not; recycling will then be done more, and more marginal mineral deposits will be left unmined as a reserve.
Monkfish, Dec 22 2000

       Yeah, au contraire, be creative, accept it all, put it under pressure, make a really big pile of everything and if it novas it novas ... universal alchemy ... "Hmmm ... what if we ..." We probly need to stir it.
rfalv, Dec 23 2000

       Right now we *could* recycle circuit boards or pampers, but it's much cheaper to just dig up new lead & dinosaurs & make new ones. In the future it may be cheaper to recycle than to mine for new ones. In that case, the difference between profit & loss may be determined by how hard it is to aggregate enough like things together. With garbage zoning, it would already be done.
tenhand, Dec 29 2000

       Monkfish, not all predictions of resource shortages are wrong.
You could do a quick google on the 'Hubbart curve'. In 1956 he (Hubbart) published an analysis which stated that America's oil production would peak in 1970, then decline.

       This was widely dismissed until 1970, when production peaked and started to decline.   

       I see you are only worried about the next few years, but this idea's baker is clearly worrying about the time beyond that.   

       On the other hand, I seem to remember reading about a book/article which made the optimistic prediction "When will we run out of oil? -Never!".
Loris, Oct 28 2003

       Yah. In part.   

       Anyway, I don't think I meant to imply that all predictions are wrong. Just most of them.   

       My reason for thinking that tenhand was worried about the next "couple dozen years and decades" was that he says so in the idea.
Monkfish, Oct 28 2003

       buddha_pest, ... yes but with qualifications. The easiest/cheapest oil to get is the first to be extracted, so the price-per-barrel rises. But yes, this made it more economical to import oil.   

       Monkfish, Oh yeah I see where it is quoted from now. But I interpret that as meaning that tenhand is worried about *after* the next few decades.
However, certainly I agree with the points from your follow-up post that if you sort something now you might as well recycle it now, and that this is fairly easy to arrange economically.
Loris, Oct 29 2003


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