Sweden Is Recycling So Much Trash, It’s Running Out…

Sweden Is Recycling So Much Trash, It’s Running Out...


Sweden has transformed its waste-infrastructure program to accommodate the burning of trash.  They have taken a process that used to be heavily pollutant and modernized it to create incredible amounts of energy with a low waste output. They’ve even figured out how to turn a lot of that polluting gas into biofuel.

Currently, the Swedish population recycles 1.5 billion bottles and cans annually, which is an amazing amount, relative to the population of about 9.6 million (in 2013).

There are 32 of these amazing reconversion plants, dedicated to turning trash into energy, throughout the country and they are actually at a point where they need to import trash to keep them going.  They continue to import trash from the UK, Italy, Norway, and Ireland.



Burning it is, now, better for the environment than letting it sit there, says Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell.  “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment.”

“We feel that we have responsibility to act responsibly in this area and try to reduce our ecological footprint,” states Per Bolund, Swedish Finance and Consumption Minister.  “The consumers are really showing that the want to make a difference and what we’re trying to do from the government’s side is to help them act, making it easier to behave in a sustainable way.” (via Minds)

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(24) comments

Come to Cambodia

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    They should import the trash from all places in South East Asia to motivate people in those places to clean up (literally and figuratively). There’s good money to be made in recycling and the governments of these countries should inform people but it just seems like that doesn’t happen… if they were just to spend a little of their money to build factories and finance free education dedicated to this instead of building stadiums and office buildings then I think it would do the people good.

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Combustion of residual waste is not recycling. It is energy recovery. I refer you to Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

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How about recycling the trash you allowed across your border

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If you click on the Huffington Post link in the article, you can read the burning is part of a larger program of reducing and re-using waste. THEN it makes sense. Highly confusing to suggest Sweden is doing the environment any good by burning stuff.

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How can you be running out with thousands arriving every day?

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They burn it… It’s not really recycling… In fact it’ll release carbon that would otherwise be locked into the plastic.. At least that’s what my understanding is. Unless someone can correct me?

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    they burn the burnable and recycle all the recyclable

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    Still, incineration is not recycling. Also, how well is the recycling sorted? is it coming from a dirty MRF… in which case some recyclables are still likely to be burned (even if sorted by the consumer, this is still likely to happen). Also, some recyclables still get mixed in with landfill waste due to cost.. it’s not worth the time and effort, so the MRF wont bother. Incineration isn’t a terrible solution, but it’s not really a great one either.

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    This page reposts this article about once a month. About once a month I refer them to Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive, and point out that energy recovery does not equate to recycling. In fact, Sweden don’t lead Europe in this regard. Germany do, closely followed by Wales and Austria. The Scandinavian countries used to, but their recycling performance has plateaued over the last decade. As they do rely on MRF outputs and rejects to feed their incinerator capacity (as Rudy outlines) then this constrains their adoption of universal kerbside sort, without which they won’t really progress from where they are now.

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    Sally – 93% of what is in the household stream is recyclable. The recycling rate in Sweden is about 60%. They burn much that is recyclable.

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    I just went on a tour of one of these plants and I was totally impressed. Their emmissions were cleaner then common air. Dont get me wrong we buy our energy from Germany, but this product is among the strongest Ive seen. I wouldnt call it recycling myself, rather waste management. I highly reccomend an on-site investigation which they will surely oblige. Seriously, I had my doubts but I thought it was great.

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    Rudy Reda It’s not just incineration, they are producing power with the heat energy, so the carbon output that would have been created with fossil fuels is offset. That is why it can be viewed as recycling. Better than landfill and pulling more fossil fuels into the mix in my book…

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    Dale – incineration is defined by the technology not the recovery of heat. Any controlled combustion of residual waste in an excess air environment is classed as incineration through mass burn combustion (as is the case for the majority of Scandinavian plants). The carbon offset is variable and dependent on what is burned, how efficiently you do so and what else you could do with that waste. For example, burning waste wood (low embedded energy cost of production, recycling outcomes not that good, rots down in landfill) is always a better option than landfill and a number of recycling outcomes. Burning waste plastic (high embedded energy cost of manufacture, multiple recycling outcomes, does nothing in landfill) is rarely better than landfill unless you absolutely can’t recycle it and you can burn it at a high efficiency.

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    Nicholas – their emissions aren’t ‘cleaner than air’. They have a big CO2 emissions profile, and are significant net contributors in this regard, although a well managed facility will stay on top of its particulate, metal and volatiles emissions, and will have NOx and SOx reduction as well. This all through the stack abatement. Which comes at a price – around 2% of the input volume of waste is captured after combustion as a hazardous waste stream (the air abatement plant residues) which is generally landfilled. A further 20% or so is produced as a mainly inert bottom ash, which can be used for aggregate once the metals have been removed from it (these are recycled).

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    I figure a problem with burning plastics is that they have a long term stable carbon content which is released on burning. Recycling plastic and even putting it in landfill may be better options with regards to preventing carbon emissions and therefore possibly the lesser of the evils?

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Angelika Johansson Sanne Buhrman I’ll bring some don’t worry

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