Sweden has run out of waste and is importing it from other countries

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: May 31, 2018, 09:23 PM IST

A worker at the Swedish power company, Vattenfall, with a tractor of imported waste from Scotland Photograph:(AFP)

World Environment Day will be celebrated on 5th June. Did you know that Sweden's waste recycling management is so extraordinary that they have run out of waste and have started importing rubbish from other countries to keep its state-of-the-art recycling plants functioning.

Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill in 2017 or any year since 2011.  

So why is their recycling system so far ahead?  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. 

“Swedish people are keen on being out in nature. We worked on communications 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.

The aim in Sweden is still to stop people from sending waste for recycling altogether. A national campaign called the “Miljönär-vänlig” movement has for several years promoted the notion that there is much to be gained through repairing, sharing and reusing. 

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 is a key reason that we have this district network so that we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe, they do not make use of the heating from the waste, and, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” PTI reported Gripwell as saying.

She describes Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries as a temporary situation. “There’s a ban on landfill in EU 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,” Ms Gripwall says.

A lot of investment has been gone into enhancing the waste collection techniques such as 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.