Sweden’s Recycling Revolution!
Here’s a stunning fact: Ninety-nine percent of all trash produced by homes in Sweden is recycled or composted. With 32 plants converting waste into energy – Sweden has turned their garbage into electricity!
Sweden has become so skilled in the waste-to-energy concept that they actually bring trash in from other countries to keep their plants producing energy. Norway, Italy, the UK and Ireland all send trash to Sweden totaling about 800,000 tons annually.
Weine Wiqvist, CEO of the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association, still thinks Swedes can do more, considering that about half of all household waste is burnt, that is, turned into energy. He explains that reusing materials or products means using less energy to create a product, than burning one and making another from scratch.
‘We are trying to “move up the refuse ladder”, as we say, from burning to material recycling, by promoting recycling and working with authorities’, he says. Meanwhile, Swedish households keep separating their newspapers, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries. Many municipalities also encourage consumers to separate food waste. And all of this is reused, recycled or composted.
Newspapers are turned into paper mass, bottles are reused or melted into new items, plastic containers become plastic raw material; food is composted and becomes soil or biogas through a complex chemical process. Rubbish trucks are often run on recycled electricity or biogas. Wasted water is purified to the extent of being potable. Special rubbish trucks go around cities and pick up electronics and hazardous waste such as chemicals. Pharmacists accept leftover medicine. Swedes take their larger waste, such as a used TV or broken furniture, to recycling centres on the outskirts of the cities. – source: Sweden.se
Meanwhile, in my home country of the United States, we have a recycling rate of just 34% (source: EPA 2010). More than 136 MILLION tons of garbage goes to our landfills. So why is the US so far behind? I think we need to make recycling mandatory and utilize the innovations other countries are using to turn our trash into resources.
Why haven’t we evolved in our thinking? Well I think there are many who have, but you just don’t see a lot of press on them. Maybe people think they are “those tree-huggers”, maybe people don’t quite understand the enormity of destruction we could avoid by following in the footsteps of the zero or near zero-trash producers.
Maybe it’s because waste removal (trash collecting) a HUGE business. The more you recycle, the less they profit. Who cares about what is happening to the earth as long as they are making money. We should all sit in our own stink and think about that for a bit.