Web Analytics
Urban Mining: A way towards a circular economy and better resource management - TNK Green

Urban Mining: A way towards a circular economy and better resource management

Urban Mining: A way towards a circular economy and better resource management


The concept of urban mining represents a paradigm shift in how we view construction and resource management, treating urban waste not as refuse, but as a valuable reservoir that can be systematically harvested and repurposed across various applications. This approach encompasses a broad spectrum of materials, from precious metals like gold, lithium, and copper, to essential building components such as wood, steel, and concrete. By reimagining waste as a resource, urban mining offers profound opportunities to recycle materials that might otherwise languish in landfills or be incinerated, thereby reducing environmental impact and conserving finite resources.

Originating in the 1980s through the pioneering work of Hideo Nanjyo at Tohoku University’s Research Institute of Mineral Dressing and Metallurgy in Japan, urban mining has steadily gained traction, evolving from a regional interest in East Asia to a global movement. While humanity has historically salvaged reusable materials, urban mining elevates this practice to an industrial scale, transforming and processing complex materials to establish a new supply chain. This approach is pivotal in advancing towards a truly circular economy, where materials circulate in closed loops, minimizing waste and enhancing resource efficiency.

However, urban mining is not without its challenges. A significant issue lies in the management of construction waste, which often ends up in overburdened landfills. In Europe alone, an alarming 850 million tons of construction and demolition materials were generated in 2020, comprising one-third of the region’s total waste output. Overcoming such obstacles requires innovative solutions and collaborative efforts across sectors to streamline waste recovery and reuse processes.

Despite these challenges, urban mining presents compelling opportunities. For instance, research by the World Economic Forum highlights that Switzerland alone holds an estimated 7 million old and unused smartphones, collectively containing approximately $10 million worth of gold. Viewing waste as a potential source of wealth underscores one of the most significant opportunities of our era, particularly in our rapidly evolving urban landscapes.

The economic potential of urban mining is substantial and growing. Currently valued at approximately $18 billion, the market is projected to reach $38 billion by 2027. Beyond economic incentives, urban mining promotes local resource markets and diminishes reliance on virgin material extraction, thus contributing to sustainability goals and mitigating environmental impacts associated with resource exploitation.

Looking ahead, the path forward involves continued innovation and collaboration among stakeholders. Initiatives such as Holcim’s advancements in concrete processing techniques exemplify efforts to refine and expand urban mining practices. Embracing these innovations supports economic growth and fosters a more sustainable approach to urban development and resource utilization.

In conclusion, urban mining is more than just a technological advancement; it signifies a fundamental shift in our approach to resource management and sustainability in our urban landscape. By harnessing the latent value within urban waste, we not only create economic opportunities but also pave the way for a more resilient and resource-efficient future.

Visit SA Corona Virus Site for updated information