Shrewsbury streets are paved with gold

Shrewsbury's waste contractor Veolia has opened a new facility in the West Midlands to “mine” the road sweepings collected by our highway maintenance teams in and around Shrewsbury for precious metals.

They believe they can extract at least £1,000,000 worth of metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium (and potentially even gold) from the dirt swept up from Britain’s streets each year.

The metals are used in your cars catalytic converters and micro particles come out in the exhaust fumes and then settle on the road surface.  We have to manage 7,500 tonnes of road sweepings each year and now instead of going to landfill all the material is being sent to Veolias new £2 million state of the art soil washing plant at Ling Hall, in Warwickshire.

The waste which is mostly composed of grit and mud off the road has to go through a number of processes, including filtration and chemical washes, to extract the metal and remove any contamination such as engine oil, fuel and bits of litter.  The resulting clean soil can then be used in land restoration projects, with the organic fraction being rotted down to make compost and the stones and grit being recycled as aggregates by the construction industry.  This means that more than 90% of the input material is now kept out of landfill which is great news for the economy and the environment.

Richard Kirkman, Veolias Technical Director, said: “We are developing a strategy of mining precious metals from road sweepings. We are separating everything out with flotation tanks and mechanical sorting machines until we're left with a fine black dust and we have found palladium, rhodium and platinum at similar levels to what is found in ore mined from the ground.”

Section:

James Thompson James Thompson

Waste Prevention Officer, Waste Management, Shropshire Council

Read More from James Thompson