Sweden is really good at recycling that, for many years, it has imported rubbish from the rest of countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1 percent of Swedish household waste has been sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.
We can barely dream of such a successful system in the UK, which is why we end up paying expensive transport costs to send rubbish to be recycled overseas rather than sending these to fines to send it to landfill under The Landfill Tax of 1996.
The UK has made steps in the proportion of waste recycled under an EU target of at least 50 percent by 2020. This has underpinned millions of pounds of investments into these recycling facilities and also the energy recovery plants in the UK that have also helped to create many jobs. Also, recycling in the UK has been raised to around 45 percent of all waste in 2014.
Since then the provisional figures from the ONS have shown that the figure has dropped to around 44 percent as the austerity has resulted in budget cuts. The decision taken to leave the EU could lead to making this situation worse. While Europe, on the other hand, is aiming for a 65 percent of recycling target by the year 2030. The UK might be about to fall even further behind its green neighbors.
Why do we sending waste to Sweden? The answer is right there- their culture of looking after their environment. The country, Sweden, was one of the first countries to implement for implementing a heavy tax on fossil fuels in the year 1991, now, the country is sourcing half of its electricity from renewables.
Anna-Carin Gripwall, the director of communications for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association says that “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.”
Over the time, Sweden has already implemented a cohesive national recycling policy enabling even the private companies to undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy the generated goes to the national heating network so as to heat homes through the freezing Swedish winter. Ms. Gripwell has also stated- “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.”
Ms. Gripwall states that the aim in Sweden is still to stop people sending waste to recycling in the first place. A national campaign called the “Miljönär-vänlig” movement has for several years promoted the notion that there is much to be gained through repairing, sharing and reusing.
She has described Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries as a temporary situation. She later states that- there’s a ban on landfill in EU countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden.”
“Hopefully there will be less waste and the waste that has to go to incineration should be incinerated in each country. But to use recycling for heating you have to have district heating or cooling systems, so you have to build the infrastructure for that, and that takes time,” she adds.