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August 2010
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The Swedish Recycling Revolution

Have you ever wondered countries such as India or China with large population deals or doesn’t deal with their waste problems? Well, if you have, the thought of the rubbish disposal prices in such countries might have crossed your mind since it requires massive amounts of resources to deal with large amounts of garbage. Entrepreneurs probably imagined the business opportunities that arise through waste utilization. Sweden has managed to make use of almost all their waste with only one percent being deposited to the landfills. Yes, you heard it right! 99% of the waste produced is put under recycling. Unlike many other countries worldwide, the Scandinavian nation has significantly cut down on waste disposal levels through recycling.

With the capability of recycling up to 99% of waste, Sweden has managed to reduce immensely costs of operations of industries using recycled products and it nationals, kept their environment pure, as well as job creation. All this was made possible through the recycling revolution put in place by the various stakeholders in the country.

If you imagined recycling 99% of waste to be a big deal, then you have another thing coming. Reports indicate that Sweden has found so much use for waste to extend that it has an ongoing initiative whereby they import waste from other countries including Italy, UK, Ireland and Norway. So far, there are 32 fully functional waste recycling facilities in the country with plans to step up being underway with the undertaking being only five years now. They have proven how much money lies in the garbage; with their willingness to “get their hands dirty.”

An estimated 461 kg of waste is produced by each citizen in the country annually. Methane gas and other greenhouse gasses are leaked from the landfill and eventually get to cause adverse effects to the environment. It is due to such pollution effects that the landfill had to the surrounding that triggered Sweden to find a lasting solution. The Scandinavians, therefore, established a mechanism for minimizing the infiltration of toxins into the ground.

A green waste management hierarchy was used to reduce (prevent), reuse, recycle, and eventually, dispose of in the landfill. According to a Swedish recycling company Returpack, about 1.5 billion cans and bottles are returned by the Swedes each year alone. Items that can’t be recycled are transferred to the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants where they are burnt to produce energy. Large turbines utilize the steam from the burning of waste to spin not forgetting the clean electricity energy that the steam generates. 950,000 and 260,000 homes receive heating and electricity respectively from the initiative through wire transfers countrywide.

According to the Swedish government records, in 2012 they had waste set aside for disposal reducing to 4%, translating to a 96% recycling rate. Their energy production plant outputs 670,000 tons of fuel oil energy annually from burning two million tons of trash. This materially reduced the garbage levels, thereby minimizing the undue reliance on fossils. The present statistics indicate a reduction from 4% to 1% waste levels.

Despite the progressive steps towards waste recycling and disposal, the process has still been faced with challenges with critics terming the project as controversial while politicians politic about it. There are of course pros and cons of the project with the best solution still being, producing less waste. Zero Waste initiatives are progressing but still a lot of waste is being produced. The benefits derived from the undertaking continue to be seen and felt by the citizens of the country ranging from employment, reduction in cost living, and a less polluted environment. You could on and on about whether to follow the Swedish way or to have a perfect world without garbage. The ultimate solution sadly, mostly simply recycling and landfilling.

Product Liability Attorney

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