Sweden recycles so efficiently they’ve run out of garbage

reduce reuse recycle

Sweden is now importing trash from other countries to burn for energy because they’ve run out of garbage in their country. Even better for Sweden, the other countries are paying them to take the trash.

Due to Sweden’s innovative waste-to-energy program and highly efficient recycling habits, the Scandinavian nation faces an interesting dilemma. They have run out of trash.

In Sweden, just 4% of trash goes to landfills, compared to 50% in the US.

Sweden plans to import garbage to burn for power

Sweden recycles so much that they don’t have enough to burn to generate electricity and heat. So, they will be importing garbage.

Sweden only sends about 4 percent of its waste to landfills. To put that into perspective, the United States landfills about 67 percent of its waste. While that is great for Sweden’s environment, it isn’t so good for their Waste-to-Energy program.

Why are we so wasteful here in the States? Sweden generates 20% of their heat from burning trash. We could be doing that too. More and more I’m seeing that we talk a really good game here about recycling and renewable energy yet more than a few other countries are way ahead of us.

From a Waste-to-Energy PDF

Just over two millions ton of household waste is treated by waste to energy in Swedish plants every year. These plants incinerate a similar quantity of waste from industries as well. Waste incineration provides heat corresponding to the needs of 810,000 homes, around 20 per cent of all the district-heating produced. It also provides electricity corresponding to the needs of almost 250,000 homes.

Torsviksverket in Jönköping, which was commissioned in 2006, incinerates 20 tons of waste every hour. Photo: Anders Arvidsso

Recyling metals means money for the impoverished

San Jose Metals is open seven days a week recyling metals. It’s always busy. People bring aluminum cans, glass bottles, and other metals to be recycled and get paid by the pound. They turn away no one. Homeless people arrive with shopping carts filled with cans. So do obviously impoverished couples, who are probably trying to get extra money for food. A steady stream of pickups, often filled to the top, pull in. Large flatbed trucks sometimes bring neatly crushed bring 6 foot cubes of cans that require a forklift to unload.

This is certainly a booming niche business, and they keep a lot of cans out of landfills. But the continuous stream of poor and homeless clearly shows the underclass in Silicon valley, one of the few areas left in the country where the economy is still doing well.

I bet some of the poor people bringing in cans are on food stamps. Clearly they do want to work else they wouldn’t be recycling metals by digging around in trash cans all day for bottles and cans. So, Mitt Romney is wrong. Lots of people who are on some kind of assistance do want a way out and are willing to work hard to get it.

The red building next door is a bar. I wonder if both businesses are owned by the same people. 🙂

Chicken poop to power

The proposed combined-heat-and-power (CHP) biomass boiler operation in Salisbury MD will create 70,000 pounds per hour of steam for an adjacent Perdue Agribusiness complex using a combination of poultry litter, layer hen manure, wood chips and other locally sourced biomass

Another poultry litter facility in Minnesota already produces 55 MW. What a great idea! Take what would be landfilled or burned at expense to the company and turn it into an asset.

Railroad ties and bridges from 100% recycled material

Axion makes the ties from plastic bottles and landfill waste and says they are cost-effective.

ECOTRAXâ„¢ simply outperform traditional railroad ties. They are virtually impervious to the elements; will not rust, splinter, crumble, rot, absorb moisture or leach toxic chemicals into the environment; and are completely impervious to infestation by insects. ECOTRAXâ„¢ ties offer a lower lifetime cost than traditional materials. Installing ECOTRAXâ„¢ requires no special tools or training.

Inhabitat has more.