Yes, you can build a garbage city in SimCity (and make money doing it)
Maxis continues to emphasize that you’ll be able to play SimCity, for the most part, however you’d like. That includes being able to serve as the trash lord of your region (the land masses upon which multiple cities exist as neighbors either in single or multiplayer). Though Maxis doesn't consider it a formal specialization path, there's room within the game for receiving other cities' junk to be a profitable enterprise.
I spoke to SimCity Producer Jason Haber during a hands-on demo of the game today.
Have there been any especially strange, highly-specialized cities created at Maxis?
Haber: "I really love making a garbage city. And to me, what that is, it’s a city that’s primarily built with garbage dumps and waste treatment and recycling facilities. I basically build a bunch of those and then share it out with other cities in the region, and not only do I make money from providing that service to other cities but also, with the recycling trucks, they’ll also bring back in plastics and metals and things like that. And I’ll process those at the recycling plant and then I can export them using a trading depot to sell those on the global market. So I can actually make money as sort of this like... garbage-based economy."
The processing of recyclable goods seems to be pretty granular—alloys, metals, and plastics are all discrete resources within SimCity's system, and (alternatively to just selling them on the market) you can keep these materials local for industrial use. Haber does disclaim that there are some downsides to being a landfill landlord: "Obviously my city becomes very dirty and my Sims aren’t very happy, but I don’t care because I’m just trying to do it. And I have the advantage that my other cities don’t have that stinky garbage dump in their city, they can sort of outsource that service to this other city. Who is it—I think it’s Sweden, they import garbage."
Yep, Sweden does. As do parts of the United States. Haber also mentions a wind energy farm as a type of city he's hoping to experiment with. “I think there’s a lot of specializations that we haven’t discovered yet that people will be able to figure out.”