Sweden is currently recycling a total of 99% of its locally-produced waste. This amazing milestone has been achieved thanks to the citizens that are actively working to help the environment and because of the refined collection techniques that Sweden has implemented. The country is recycling and reusing waste quite vigorously since the recycling revolution that happened about twenty years ago.
The percentage of recycled waste by households in Sweden was 38% back in 1975 and has risen to 99%. In 2001 a total of 22% of rubbish was making its way to the landfills in Sweden. Whereas, today only 1% of the total waste goes to landfills. The policy of zero waste has ceased rubbish within the country, and now Sweden gets paid by other countries for importing their waste. The import has increased by four times between 2005 and 2014. In 2016 only, Sweden imported 2.3 million tons of waste from Norway, UK, Ireland, and other countries.
Out of the household waste that was produced in Sweden in 2017, 15.5% has been utilized for biological recycling, 33.8% for material recycling and 50.2% has been used in energy recovery. Landfills are considered to be a big source of emissions of the greenhouse gas methane. On the other hand, burning waste is reported to be much kinder to the environment according to the experts. Johan Sundberg, Energy and Waste Consultant at Profu, said, ‘If you incinerate one ton of Italian waste in Sweden you get 500kg CO2 equivalent less emissions than if it is dumped in a landfill in Italy. That’s a substantial reduction.’
Sweden’s waste-to-energy program has enabled incineration plants to supply heat to over one million houses in Sweden. The recycling process doesn’t cease at the burning stage. Instead, the ash that remains – 15% of the waste volume that was burnt – is also recycled and reused. Metals from the ash are recycled while the rest is used in road construction. Only 1% remains are sent to the dumps. The smoke from burning the waste is also filtered via dry filters and water. The dry filters are used for the sake of refilling abandoned mines.
Despite what one might think, the process is not completely environment-friendly. However, as Weine Wiqvist, CEO of the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association (Avfall Sverige) says, reusing materials or products cause less energy to be used for creating a product as opposed to creating one from scratch.
The country has the latest waste collection system where recycling stations are built at a distance of 300 meters from residential areas. Pipelines under roads vacuum the garbage from the households. This means that no rubbish is present at street level. There is no smell of rubbish from neighborhoods because of underground deposits. The Swedish company, Optibag, has machinery that is capable of sorting differently colored bags thus saving the cost of sorting stations. What do you think of this all? Shouldn’t all of the countries take a note from the Swedish book?