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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(43) 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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Burning trash isn’t recycling trash . It’s just burning trash

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    Yes. But they are converting it to energy. So it is recycling in a way.

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    No it’s just burning trash .

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    Cris Ward, you’re right. Nothing different between this and just burning coal, or just burning natural gas, or petroleum fuels, or…… You do get that I’m mocking you, right?

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    Micah Smith so we should just say we are recycling coal and oil and then it’s ok to burn it ? See what I did there ?

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    I guess the alternative is stuffing it in landfills, like in ‘murka. Personally, I think it’s pretty clever to run power plants on it, particularly if you try to filter out as much of the bad stuff as possible as Sweden does before letting it out into the open air.

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    Or you could sort it and recycle it like the headline says . Putting it into landfill at least it will break down into oil again someday .

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    Sorting and recycling it would be more energy intensisive than using it for energy (i.e. most forms of recycling are worse for the environment than dumping.)

    Putting it into a landfill in an anaerobic environment will emit more harmful gas over time than combusting it efficiently at high temps. Burning, in this case, is far cleaner in the long run.

    Saying its “just burning trash” is myopic and dismissive

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    Quite wrong. Most materials are better recycled than used to recover energy. It takes less energy to do so and the economic return is better. Energy recovery is only really justifiable for the more marginal fractions, and those with a high calorific value but a low embedded energy cost of manufacture (wood waste is a good example here). Otherwise you are better off recycling. Consider polyethylene as an example – an embedded energy cost of manufacture of 86MJ/kg, but it only takes 2-3MJ/kg to collect and sort for recycling. If you burn it, it has a calorific value of about 44 MJ/kg, of which burned to generate electricity in a conventional incinerator at a net efficiency of 25%? You get back 11MJ/kg. In other words? You are wasting nearly 89% of the energy it took to make that by burning it. In carbon terms, you’d be better landfilling it.

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    Also, almost every waste material is better recycled than landfilled. There are very few materials for which this is not the case. I can only really think of asbestos off the top of my head, and there are obvious reasons why this is the case.

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    Ok, here’s the thing. I’m from Sweden and yes, we do have to buy other countries trash because we are hell good at recycling and using our trash in really good ways:
    The regular trash that can’t be recycled (and isn’t dangerous for the enviroment) gets to special ovens. The trash gets burned at first and the heat transformed from this get’s out in what is called something like “far away heat” (in Swedish) that can let a lot of houses/ fabrics/ shopping malls heated. No smell and no danger. This is a really energy low cost way of heating. Enviromental friendly.
    The rest products (ash) then get transported to a container near the oven where it get’s to be transformed into soil, after natural gases have been drawn out for our buses. It is cleansed a couple of times more. This process also leak a lot of heat, that can be channeled on to the “far away heat” pipes and continue to give us heat.
    The soil then get’s to be stored for a while longer and the microprocesses makes it even more clean.
    What’s left is clean soil.

    Whatr can’t be recycled is no longer any danger. Is this really such a bad way of handling garbage? This is a good way until we can find even more clean ways of getting energy and getting rid of trash. Studies have shown that we have become so good at not getting any waist that can’t be recycled that our trash alone isn’t enough. The other countries are happy right now that we can take care of some of their waste. (That is a negative thing though since it doesn’t make them want to find more eco friendly waste handlings though…)
    But for now this is a lot more eco friendly way to get energy/ fuel/ heat from than for example coal, oil etc…
    And some other pluses:
    No more landfills here in Sweden that leaks chemicals out to our waters.
    No more stinky areas.
    And we even get paid to sort some of our trash just to make the Swedish people more aware and happy to sort out the trash.

    How can this be something bad? Is it better with garbage landfills?

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Not this article again. Fed up of debunking this now.

Look. Here’s the Waste Framework Directive.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32008L0098

This is what Article 4 says.

‘Article 4

Waste hierarchy

1. The following waste hierarchy shall apply as a priority order in waste prevention and management legislation and policy:

(a) prevention;
(b)preparing for re-use;
(c)recycling;
(d)other recovery, e.g. energy recovery; and
(e)disposal.

2. When applying the waste hierarchy referred to in paragraph 1, Member States shall take measures to encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome. This may require specific waste streams departing from the hierarchy where this is justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impacts of the generation and management of such waste.

Member States shall ensure that the development of waste legislation and policy is a fully transparent process, observing existing national rules about the consultation and involvement of citizens and stakeholders.

Member States shall take into account the general environmental protection principles of precaution and sustainability, technical feasibility and economic viability, protection of resources as well as the overall environmental, human health, economic and social impacts, in accordance with Articles 1 and 13.’

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    Note 1(d) above. ‘Other recovery’. That’s what Sweden do with much of their waste. It’s not ‘recycling’

    Here’s a report setting out which countries recycle the most. Following a study undertaken by Eunomia Ltd (a foremost environmental consultancy) for Resource (a foremost trade publication for the resource management industry)

    http://resource.co/sites/default/files/World%20Recycling%20League%20-%20Full%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf

    Sweden doesn’t even get into the top 10.

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    Yeah, exactly. What we do in Sweden is less specifically recycling, it’s more a fanatical kind of trash sorting. Hence why so little ends up in landfills (the fate of mixed trash), and why it’s easy to burn specifically sorted materials in power plants with sophisticated filters to not let out too much shit in the air. Pretty much every home is expected to do fundamental trash sorting of (the holy trinity) biodegradable, plastic and paper – with many also featuring specific containers for cardboard, metal and glass. Add to that what is effectively governmental sorting centers, colloquially refered to as “Återbruk” (lit. trans. “Re-utilize”), for any larger stuff related to the household, be it furniture, cushions, housing bricks, refrigerators, plaster, or planks. Also, our pharmacies readily takes back any old medicine containers when they’re empty, or just have gone out of date.

    That’s why we’re “running out of trash”.

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they have a lot of trash that came from abroad

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They aren’t running out their liberal idealism’s lets lots of rubbish through their gates!

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Burning is not recycling. Tired of repeating this!

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Stuart ‘Ollie’ Kagan

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Ok, here’s the thing. I’m from Sweden and yes, we do have to buy other countries trash because we are hell good at recycling and using our trash in really good ways:
The regular trash that can’t be recycled (and isn’t dangerous for the enviroment) gets to special ovens. The trash gets burned at first and the heat transformed from this get’s out in what is called something like “far away heat” (in Swedish) that can let a lot of houses/ fabrics/ shopping malls heated. No smell and no danger. This is a really energy low cost way of heating. Enviromental friendly.
The rest products (ash) then get transported to a container near the oven where it get’s to be transformed into soil, after natural gases have been drawn out for our buses. It is cleansed a couple of times more. This process also leak a lot of heat, that can be channeled on to the “far away heat” pipes and continue to give us heat.
The soil then get’s to be stored for a while longer and the microprocesses makes it even more clean.
What’s left is clean soil.

Whatr can’t be recycled is no longer any danger. Is this really such a bad way of handling garbage? This is a good way until we can find even more clean ways of getting energy and getting rid of trash. Studies have shown that we have become so good at not getting any waist that can’t be recycled that our trash alone isn’t enough. The other countries are happy right now that we can take care of some of their waste. (That is a negative thing though since it doesn’t make them want to find more eco friendly waste handlings though…)
But for now this is a lot more eco friendly way to get energy/ fuel/ heat from than for example coal, oil etc…
And some other pluses:
No more landfills here in Sweden that leaks chemicals out to our waters.
No more stinky areas.
And we even get paid to sort some of our trash just to make the Swedish people more aware and happy to sort out the trash.

How can this be something bad? Is it better with garbage landfills?

Reply
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