How Urban Mining and Harvesting City Resources Can Create a Sustainable, Circular Economy

Urban Mining: 50 Ways to Mine the City

50 Ways to Mine the City is an exploration of ways in which the city’s outputs, byproducts, and under-utilized assets can be recovered, reimagined, and used in new ways by mining the city.

It reveals how innovators are transforming the function of the city from a consumer of resources to a generator of them.

Featuring diverse projects from around the world researched and curated by Scott Burnham, the book creates a global narrative of how the circular economy, urban mining, and resource recovery are coming together to create a more sustainable and resourceful future.

Year after year, resources are fed into the city to keep the urban machine running. For most of history this has been done in a linear model: natural and material resources go in; waste and pollution come out and is buried or left to pollute the environment.

A new model is transforming the way we think about resources in the city—a more sustainable, circular approach that realizes the byproduct and outputs of the city’s daily operations are a valuable source of raw material.

Various terms are used to describe this new direction—the circular economy, urban mining, waste recovery, energy harvesting, and more. Regardless of the phrasing, all align around an understanding that waste is nothing more than resources in the wrong place.

Why strip another mountain of its trees, fauna, and wildlife to get the minerals at its core when tons of metal lay dormant beneath the city? Why exploit people and habitats in distant countries to mine gold and rare materials when they can be recovered from the waste urban populations produce every day? Why use fossil fuels to warm homes and make plastics when the heat and emissions from transportation and industry can be used for the same purposes?

This book is an exploration of ways in which the city’s output, byproducts, and under-utilized assets can be recovered, reimagined, and used in new ways. It is an illustration of the potential created by the overlooked and unsung operations of the city.

We are at a moment when car exhaust, heat from trains, sewage, factory emissions, wastewater, street runoff, and asphalt scalding from the sun are not seen as troublesome parts of life in the city but as resource-rich components that hold the key for a more sustainable urban future.