Sweden: Creating Resources From Imported Waste
Sweden is a forerunner when it comes to finding innovative ways to reduce waste and recycle. Over 99% of the country's waste is either recycled or converted into energy. Metal emissions have also been reduced by 99% since 1985. This is impressive considering that Sweden produces 3 times the waste that it did at that time. Combined with the fact that Sweden only recycled 38% of waste in 1975; we can see that Sweden has undergone a remarkable transformation to become more sustainable. So what innovative methods did Sweden use to accomplish this?
One man's trash...
Recycling is incredibly convenient for Swedes and recycling centers are no more than 300 meters from any residential area meaning that everyone has access. Residents separate waste themselves and deposit it in special containers located in their neighborhoods or take it directly to the center itself. Once the waste arrives at the recycling centers it is cleaned and recycled, transformed into reusable resources, or burned to produce energy. Wasted water is cleaned until it is potable. The smoke from burned waste is filtered until 99.9% of it becomes water and carbon dioxide. And what about the garbage trucks that transport waste? Yes, they too run on recycled electricity or bio gas.
This recycling system has become so efficient that Sweden has begun importing over 200,000 tons of waste annually from surrounding countries saving those countries the need to use additional space for landfills. So what is next for Sweden's innovative recycling system?
Swedish company Envac has developed a new innovative way to reduce the time that it takes trash to travel from the trashcan to recycling centers. Envac has begun introducing a vacuum tube system in Stockholm, Sweden that connects trash cans directly with recycling centers. Once trash is placed in the can it is sucked down a vacuum tube and transported to a recycling center. It not only reduces waste process time but it also reduces the need to use trucks that normally would transport the waste and therefore reduces emissions.
New forms of transport aren't the only thing being created to reduce waste in Sweden. Burning garbage currently is used as a means to produce energy, however, Swedes are looking for ways to burn less garbage. Built on the logic that finding a way to reuse a product is far more efficient than using additional energy and resources to build a new one from scratch; the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association is working with authorities to look for new ways to burn less garbage and recycle more.
Sweden has made great strides towards becoming more sustainable in the past 40 years. The country has all but eliminated the dumping of waste and is continuously seeking new innovative methods to reduce waste and increase recycling. As resources become more scarce in the future will other countries catch on to these methods or will they simply let their trash become other nations' resources?