by Brenna Timm (original publish April 26, 2019)
We are always looking for creative solutions to deal with our trash. It’s even better when we can get something out of the deal too. We are going to explore five different countries from all walks of life to see what their solutions are. Today we look at Sweden where, strangely enough, the country is importing trash from other countries. Let’s take a look at what on earth they are doing.
Sweden has an incredible waste management policy. Less than 1% of the country’s waste goes into landfills. How is that possible, you ask? The country goes through all garbage and directs it either to recycling or energy recovery. The split is nearly 50/50 between the two options, covering the rest of the country’s waste. Energy recovery is where trash is incinerated to produce energy and heating. There are 32 incineration plants across the country, one which resides in Helsingborg. In this city, 30% of residents receive heating from their waste being incinerated.
The Importance of Importing Trash
Incinerating produces quite a bit of energy. Three tons of waste contains the same amount of energy as one ton of oil fuel. With Sweden producing 2.2 million tons of household waste yearly, there is plenty of energy to be found. However, it actually isn’t enough. The plants have extra space to work. So, Sweden has been importing approximately 800 thousand tons of waste every year. Currently, Norway, the UK, Ireland, and Italy are all exporting their waste and sending it to Sweden.
But what about the environment? Surely burning so much waste is causing harmful effects. There is a lot of controversy regarding incineration of waste and the impact. However, Sweden has a few facts in their favor. For one, landfills are still worse than incineration of waste. Also, the incineration is only producing half of the maximum emission levels.