Sweden has run out of rubbish to recycle

Sweden is so good at recycling that the country must import rubbish from other nations to keep their recycling plants going.

Recycling. ©Ruin raider at Flickr
Recycling truck ©Ruin raider at Flickr

While the US has a recycling rate of 34.4 per cent as indicated in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report, less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste alone was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.

With Europe aiming for a 65 per cent recycling target by 2030, most nations can only dream of such an effective system. And that is why countries like the UK pay expensive transport costs to send rubbish to be recycled overseas rather than paying fines to send it to landfill under The Landfill Tax of 1996.

Over time, 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.

Their system is so far ahead due 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 and now sources almost half its electricity from renewables.

In a report by The Independent, Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association, said: “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.”

Now, Swedish municipalities are individually 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.

To read the full report, click here.

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