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Sweden Runs Out of Garbage


(Higher Perspective) Imagine a world where pollution is a non-issue, cities are pristine, healthy environments to live in, and little to no entanglements from discarded trash injures wildlife or clogs the oceans. In Sweden, this is almost a reality, yet it’s causing a paradoxical predicament for the recycle-happy country that relies on waste to heat and provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes.

The Kingdom of Sweden, which holds a population of 9.5 million, relies partly on a growing waste-to-energy program. They convert all their garbage to energy to help bring heating and electricity to their citizens. Faced with a potential predicament, the Kingdom actually ran out of waste. Senior Advisor for the Sweden Environmental Protection Agency Catarina Ostlund talked about how Sweden doesn’t produce as much waste as it needs to produce energy saying, “We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and this is usable for the incineration.” The Scandinavian stronghold then turned to Norway and other European nations for help.

Sweden is now importing more than 800,000 tons of waste from Europe annually to help fulfill their energy needs. This helps the rest of Europe, which frees up their landfills from waste produced by their citizens. Sweden particularly receives 80,000 tons of waste from Norway and receives money from them because it’s cheaper for Norway to give them money for the waste then to burn it on their own ground.

There have been concerns about the pollutants the waste puts out for Sweden to power up their citizens. Dioxins in the waste product are a danger to clean air. Ostlund addressed some of these concerns to ensure Sweden is taking the proper steps to keep their air clean. He explained how they landfill these dioxins in the ashes are placed in landfills and exported back to Norway.

The Sweden EPA is quite proud of their program going on there. Four percent of Swedish waste only goes to landfills. 20 percent of the homes in Sweden are heated and over a quarter of a million homes have electricity through the waste program. Ostlund said their energy plants work more efficiently as a result of the waste used in it. Ostlund stated, “So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency. But I would say maybe in the future, this waste maybe valued even more so maybe you can sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources in the world.”

Sweden hopes this policy can be become a model for the rest of Europe as an encouragement to keep waste off landfills. Ostlund said, “I hope that we instead get waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste.”

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