The reason Sweden keeps running out of rubbish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

incineration1Time and again we read headlines and hear in the news that Sweden is so tremendously good at recycling that they keep running out of rubbish. This message the media is being told to hammer home to make us believe that other countries, especially Sweden, etc., are better at recycling than Britain.

It may be true that Britain is not, necessarily, the leading light as far as recycling goes and we still dump far too much of the waste that could be recycled – ideally at home and not sent thousands of miles away to countries that have lower environmental standards that we have here for “reprocessing” – into the proverbial holes in the grounds the costs for which are goping to haunt us in the future.

While it is true that Sweden keeps running out of rubbish – why, though, should that make headlines? – and the articles then, generally, state that they are importing rubbish from elsewhere – is not because Sweden and the Swedes recycle so very well – although recycling does happen quite well too – is that the waste goes to incineration plants where electricity and heating is being produced for Swedish households.

We have to, therefore, look very much behind the scenes of such headlines and ask the question why, if they recycle that well, would they want to import waste. Because they need it for their incineration plants and that is why they buy, for instance, rubbish from the UK to burn in their furnaces. Good recycling rates have very little, if anything, to do with it.

Incineration as a last resort – and then being used to create power and heat for homes – is fine for all that which would be left over after we have done all the reducing, the reusing, the repurposing, etc., and the recycling and composting and methane production and use. But it should not be the first or second stop, which it appears to be in Sweden where they will then have to import waste from other countries to feed their furnaces.

In an ideal world there should be a circular economy for – almost – everything and everything should be reprocessed into new products. But that is in an ideal world. In an ideal world products should and would also me made in such a way that they would last for a very long time to come by being also and especially repairable aside from being well made.

© 2017