Sweden, in order to keep its state-of-the-art recycling plants going, is now importing trash from other countries after it ran out of garbage.
The Scandinavian country, which sources almost half its electricity from renewables, was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991.
Sweden’s recycling system is so sophisticated that only less than 1% of its household waste has been sent to landfill last year.
“Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need 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 Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for Avfall 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 extremely cold 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,” Gripwell was quoted as saying by The Independent.
She termed Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries as a temporary situation.
“There’s a ban on landfill in European Union countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden,” Gripwall said.
“Hopefully there will be less waste and the waste that has to go to incineration should be incinerated in each country. But to use recycling for heating you have to have district heating or cooling systems, so you have to build the infrastructure for that, and that takes time,” she added.
Swedish municipalities are investing in futuristic waste collection techniques, like automated vacuum systems in residential blocks, removing the need for collection transport, and underground container systems that free up road space and get rid of any smells.