Luring Factories To Landfills

NOBODY WANTS A GARBAGE dump in their backyard. But when it comes to luring industrial parks, communities compete aggressively with tax breaks. Playing on that, scientists at Stevens Institute of Technology are tackling the problem of solid waste by turning landfills into a new breed of industrial park. Manufacturers who locate there would get free energy and free raw materials in exchange for converting, say, discarded jars into glass fibers. These would be used to reinforce plastic composites made from scrap shampoo and soda bottles.

The idea could solve a basic economic problem: If resources mined from a landfill have to be transported to remote factories and reprocessed using commercial power, "then recycling just can't compete," says George P. Korfiatis, director of Stevens Institute's Environmental Engineering Center. Better to do it on the spot, using methane from decaying garbage for power. Stevens will build a $2.3 million pilot recycling center next to a landfill in New Jersey. It will also use molecular engineering to create new polymers that make it easier to manage the total life cycle of plastic products--currently more than one-third of all solid waste.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.