Sweden has run out of rubbish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Due to Sweden’s innovative waste-to-energy program and highly efficient recycling habits, this Scandinavian nation faces an interesting dilemma. They have run out of trash.

resourcerecovery_smlThe country’s waste management and recycling programs are second to none as only four percent of the nation’s waste ends up in landfills.

By contrast, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over half of the waste produced by American households ends up in landfills and things are not better in Britain either. To add to that the fact that many things that are collected in kerbside recycling also end up in the same place as there are no means to recycle them, there is a glut in the market for recyclables or they are “contaminated” and thus cannot be (easily) recycled.

Because Sweden manages waste so effectively and then use what remains to partly power their country, they are now living an environmentalist’s dream; a shortage of garbage. Can you believe that?

However, the environmentalist in Britain demand that our waste be recycled and not burned and even that what, invariably, remains and cannot be recycled must be recycled say Friends of the Earth and other groups. Incineration must not be done, they say, and that despite the fact that Sweden shows the way how to do it.

In order to continue fueling the waste-to-energy factories that provide electricity to a quarter of a million homes and 20% of the entire country’s district heating, Sweden is now resorting to importing trash from the landfills of other European countries.

In fact, those countries are paying Sweden to do so. Yes, you read that correctly, countries are paying to get rid of a source of fuel they themselves produced so that Sweden can continue to have the energy output they need instead of using the waste for the same purposes at home. This is madness, if you ask me.

One does not have to be an economist to know that this is one highly enviable energy model and that, besides the economic benefit, the Swedish system of sustainability clearly has vast environmental benefits.

Apart from the traditional recycling programs that are being used, Sweden's waste-to-energy system ensures minimal environmental impact from the country’s waste and thus the country's extremely efficient circle of consumption, waste management, and energy output provides the current global population and coming generations inspiration and guidance towards a more sustainable future.

The United States and Britain could learn a great deal from Sweden and how they do things but, alas, it is in Britain the so-called environmentalists that actually block any attempts of doing this, e.g. production of energy from waste by burning it.

Rather Britain is playing with burning biomass in some power stations in the form of pellets which, in the main, have to be imported from as far afield as the USA and are, more often than not, made from virgin wood rather than waste wood. Or those power plants are fueled by biomass in the form of specially grown “crops” such as willow, eucalyptus, or miscanthus. Plants which use up land areas better used for the growing of food.

We must change and we must change now and follow models that work in other countries and implement them in order, in this case, to (one) have energy security and (two) reduce the waste going to landfill.

© 2013