Sweden has run out of garbage. The Scandinavian country is now forced to import trash from other countries to keep its state-of-the-art recycling plants going. Sweden, which sources almost half its electricity from renewables, was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991.
Over the past two decades, Sweden’s recycling system has become so advanced and efficient that only less than 1 percent of its household waste was sent to landfills last year. Anna-Carin Gripwall, Director of Communications for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish waste management and recycling association, said,
“Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need do on nature and environmental issues. We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse.”
Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the extremely cold winter. Gripwall told Independent,
“That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel.”
Swedish municipalities are investing in futuristic waste collection techniques like automated vacuum systems in residential blocks, removing the need for collection transport, and underground container systems that free up road space and get rid of any smells.
Sweden’s recycling processes are of such great quality that they do not have enough garbage to meet their heating requirements. As a result, the country imported 8,00,000 tonnes of garbage in 2014, reports Al Jazeera. Countries like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, with their state-of-the-art recycling facilities, are also among the ones that import waste.