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Recycle like the Swedes

Advanced segregation system with various types of recycling bins in the public park in Malmo, Sweden.

Recycle like the Swedes

Recycle like the Swedes

Less than one percent of household waste in Sweden ends up in landfill. So just how do the Swedes do it?

In 1975 only 38 per cent of household waste was recycled in Sweden. Today, the country has banned most landfill and about 49 per cent is recycled, the rest being burnt.

The Swedish government claims that 99% of waste is recycled because the waste that is burnt is turned into energy. The heat is transformed into steam that spins turbines to generate electricity. The incineration process also produces methane biogas which runs more than 200 buses, as well as a fleet of garbage trucks and some taxis.

The country’s inhabitants have made some adjustments to ensure that very little waste ends up in landfill. Most Swedes separate all recyclable waste in their home and drop it off at a recycling station. Waste is separated into paper, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs, batteries and many municipalities also encourage consumers to separate food waste.

There’s a rule in Sweden that recycling stations are no more than 300 metres from any residential area making this a possibility.

While most of the paper and glass is recycled, a lot of the plastic is being incinerated, which does pose other environmental concerns.  However, Weine Wiqvist, CEO of the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association says, “We are trying to ‘move up the refuse ladder’, as we say, from burning to material recycling, by promoting recycling and working with authorities”.

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