Sweden’s recycling runs out of rubbish

11th December 2016 | Recycling

Sweden’s recycling system is so good, that is has to import rubbish from abroad to keep its plants going. Less than one per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.

By comparison, the UK has a target of 50 per cent by 2020. Recycling in the UK peaked at around 45 per cent of waste in 2014. Since then figures show that figure dropping to 44 per cent as austerity has resulted in budget cuts.

The Brexit decision could make this situation worse. Europe has a target of 65 per cent by 2030, but the UK looks like it will fall further behind its green neighbours.
Sweden’s recycling process is so far ahead thanks to a culture of looking after the environment. Sweden was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991. It now sources almost half its electricity from renewables.

“Swedish peoples are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need to do on nature and environmental issues. We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse,” said Carin Gripwall, director of communication for Ayfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association.

Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the freezing Swedish winter.

“That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe, they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” Ms Gripwell says.

There is much to admire and learn from the Swedish recycling system.

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