Did you know that Swedes recycle nearly 100% of their household waste? It depends on how you think of burning for energy though. Controversial topic alert! Swedes recycle traditionally first. Recycling stations are no more than 300 metres from any residential area. Most homes separate all recyclable waste (papers, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries and often food waste), and deposit it in special containers in their block or drop it off at a recycling station (or it’s picked up). On top of that, Sweden has such a well developed network of waste-to-energy plants that it imports waste to feed them. The energy it creates is used for heating and electricity.
We know burning for energy is controversial in a number of countries and we’re the first to say this is absolutely imperfect and good golly we wish we never needed this in the first place. Burning means new products need to be created which is more energy than recycling or reusing and more ruining our environment through mining and toxins. We should first and foremost be reducing our constant consuming habits and the waste we’re creating. And we should be forcing companies to create sustainable, closed loop products.
In Sweden though, the waste-to-energy has become a highly refined system. The smoke is 99.9% non-toxic and is additionally filtered through dry filters and water. Porcelain and tiles are sifted to extract gravel that is used in road construction and sludge from the dirty water is used to refill abandoned mines.
It’s an imperfect system, for an extremely imperfect world – but it’s better than many of the alternatives – including dumping everything into the ground which most countries do. What do you think?