Sweden Recycles 99% And Makes Money In The Process

One of the commenters on the Youtube video wrote “The whole world needs to learn this” – and I agree. Perhaps it was because of the acid rain environmental disaster in the 1980’s but the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) certainly seem to lead the pack when it comes to recycling and other types of environmentally responsible action. It’s culturally accepted that it’s the right thing to do and recycling has been adopted as part of the “mindset”.


In terms of recycling, Sweden is famous for leading the world and showing other nations how it should be done. This video from FRANCE24English gives us a rundown.

Sweden not only recycles “almost everything” (99%) but uses recycled materials in order to generate energy: High temperature incinerators provide electricity to 200,000 people and heat for 100,000 people – yet apparently the CO2 emissions are 2x lower than the “acceptable limit” (whatever that is!).

Interestingly we learn that Sweden imports waste from other countries and 10% of the waste they treat comes from other nations. Most of it came from the United Kingdom. It’s strange to see waste as a commodity but years ago I remember thinking that eventually the waste stream would be treated as a valuable resource. It makes sense as the cost of new raw materials goes up and the technology for recycling waste becomes more advanced.

First, there are projects to reuse old goods and we see an entire shopping precinct dedicated to refurbished items.


Next, we see that the public seems to make a greater effort to separate their waste carefully. We’re starting to see this mentality adopted worldwide but in Sweden the difference is the level of public effort, combined with highly organized systems to support their efforts.

There are some criticisms of Sweden’s policy: The director of the Zero Waste France, Flore Berlingen, holds the view that incinerating waste is not a form of recycling. This is intelligent and is explained in detail. You can get heat but this is a kind of “last resort”. It’s destructive to the materials. So Sweden’s 99% figure in one sense masks the truth of how much of the waste is returned to industry.

One of the big efforts now is composting – around 30% of our waste is biodegradable food waste and green waste that can be returned to the natural cycle.

There’s much work to do getting nations on board with these more advanced recycling systems, however there is significant public motivation now. In the meantime, there’s much that the individual can do, simply by taking care to recycle as much and as carefully as possible.

Sweden Recycles 99% And Makes Money In The Process
Sweden Recycles 99% And Makes Money In The Process – Graphic © off-grid.info. Images: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14r7f9khK70


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