November 26, 2014 by Alanna Ketler
Something incredible has been taking place in Sweden over the past several years, somewhat of a “recycling revolution,” if you will. Currently less than one percent of the garbage produced in Swedish homes ends up in the landfill today, with the other ninety-nine percent being recycled or composted.
Sweden has been known for years now for the amazing and resourceful waste management system that they have had in place for some time. They have 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants and this burned waste powers 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating as well as electricity for about 250,000 Swedish homes.
In fact, Sweden has become so good at recycling their waste; the country now has to import 800,000 tons of trash each year from the U.K., Italy, Ireland and Norway to keep their WTE plants up and running.
According to Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell, “Waste today is a commodity in a different way than it has been. It’s not only waste, it’s a business.”
This is pretty impressive especially when compared to Americans who recycled just thirty-four percent of their waste in 2010 and according to the Environmental Protection Agency more than fifty percent of the average U.S. household waste ended up in landfills, this is about 136 million tons of garbage in total. According to the New York Times there are some trash burning facilities in the United States, but only a small portion of the waste is burned, and most of that burned waste ends up in landfills anyways.
What About The Environmental Effects?
Of course there is some controversy over this method of waste management and energy production. There are fumes that are produced that are toxic, but many argue that this is still a much better alternative to the typical landfills that we see more often in America. On average, more than forty percent of the world’s trash is burned and mostly in open air, this is much different from the regulated, low-emission process that has been adopted by Sweden. This makes Sweden’s method a lot more eco-friendly.
It is unfortunate that at this time the options are to either pollute the air, or pollute the Earth because we are producing so much garbage and it doesn’t just simply disappear without leaving its mark. It doesn’t look like manufacturers are going to stop making products that can’t be recycled anytime soon, so it is up to us to be more conscious with what we are consuming. We need to stop the problem at the source.
How Can We All Be A Bit More Like The Swedish?
Sweden is an excellent example of a nation of citizens that care for their environment and their ecological footprint. If the Swedish are able to recycle 99% of their waste, why can’t we? Well we certainly can, however it does take a bit more effort. I believe that it is truly worth the effort, soon it will become so natural to us that it won’t even feel effortful, we just have to start taking that step!
There are many people now that are striving to produce zero or at least very minimal waste. You can read one of those stories here, check out the supermarket in Germany that produces zero waste here and read about the American restaurant that managed to not produce any waste in two years and counting here to get inspired on how you to can begin to implement a minimal waste, minimal footprint lifestyle.