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I am working on a post-apocalyptic world with relatively advanced small-scale militaries. In what ways are landfills useful as sources of rare earth metals, glass, or other materials?

Edit: Mostly looking for rare earth elements to recycle and use in electronics. Wondering if it is feasible and at all easy.

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closed as too broad by Jared K, Tyler S. Loeper, Renan, Frostfyre, Elmy Mar 6 at 7:21

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ What exactly are you looking for? Raw materials? Completed items? Make-shift gear? An old metal can could be a cup for example, or just metal to melt down. What are you hoping to recover from landfills, and for what? $\endgroup$ – Tyler S. Loeper Mar 5 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Thomas, please take the tour and read up in our help centre about how we work: How to Ask. At the moment it's unclear what you're asking, we need you to ask a question that has a definite best answer, whereas your question at present could have many opinion based answers. Please edit your question to fit. $\endgroup$ – Agrajag Mar 5 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome Thomas. I did a massive edit on your question but it's still probably too broad to stay open. Can you add some more detail? Are you looking to supply the military? For armor? For weapons? For building materials? Why rare earth? Is the electronics industry starting up again? Let us know and keep the question as narrow as possible. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Mar 5 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Glass, Plastic (particularly in older pre-biodegradable landfills), ordinary metal (tin, copper etc), you'll get reliable usable quantities of all that, rare earth metals? I wouldn't think so, especially not in reliable or useful quantities for any industrial process or product that relies on them ~ why would they want to dig up glass though when there's so much sand lying around on the surface? :) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Mar 5 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ I would posit that a metal scrap yard, or auto recycling yard, would be a better bet, The dump would have to be a pre-recycling-era dump to produce much metal or rare earth elements. Most of these are now recycled out before the waste gets to the dump. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Mar 6 at 0:48
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I am working on a post-apocalyptic world with relatively advanced small-scale militaries. In what ways are landfills useful as sources of rare earth metals, glass, or other materials?

Edit: Mostly looking for rare earth elements to recycle and use in electronics. Wondering if it is feasible and at all easy.

Maybe, but we have to take into account where the landfill is and when it was in operation.

In recent decades the United States and many other countries have limited what items can go into a landfill. Likewise, there are other places with few, if any, restrictions to landfill contents.

Even in places that did put restrictions in place, they didn't go back to old landfills and dig out all the undesirable junk, they just didn't allow it in the new landfills. So, in the US, landfills opened after the mid-'90s would have little in the way of electronics. But the older landfills would. There are thousands of such places in the US. We buried a LOT of stuff up until the '80s! There was a dump of Atari games in the '80s and maybe there is more out there.

Changing the dump mindset took years of effort and people willing to dig up the past in order to disprove landfill myths.

If it's key to the story, there is a good possibility you can find some history to back up your ideas.

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Not reasonable.

A: In many places electronics are now separated from the general waste stream to keep the lead in solder from getting into the water table.

B: most of the waste stream is crushed, metal disolved out (exp. gold) and the rest returned to the landfill.

C: the reason that stuff goes into the landfill is that it's not economic to separate the materials even with fans, and power conveyors. When you have to excavate a landfill layer by layer by hand it's a worse return on your time. I don't think this would pay even with slave labour.

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