Sweden is moving toward zero waste by making it possible to recycle 99% of all household waste. Since 1975, the country has moved from being able to recycle only 38% of its household waste to turning the entire country’s household waste into energy.
By imposing new regulation for recycling stations to be located within 300 meters from any residential area, citizens are taking part by collecting and separating their recyclable waste in their homes and drop off other items to nearby recycling stations.
Today, there are 32 incineration plants in Sweden which burn more than 2 million tonnes of waste to produce heat for over 800,000 households and generate electricity for 250,000 homes. Since 1985, 99% of heavy metal emissions have been reduced despite the fact that Sweden emits three times more waste today than in 1985.
‘We are trying to “move up the refuse ladder”, as we say, from burning to material recycling, by promoting recycling and working with authorities’, Weine Wiqvist, CEO of the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association (Avfall Sverige) says.
Meanwhile, Swedish households keep separating their newspapers, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries. Municipalities in Sweden encourage people there to separate food waste beside plastic, glass, metal, newspapers, electronics and batteries, all of this is reused, recycled or composted.
Recycling stations turn newspapers into paper mass, plastic containers into plastic raw materials, bottles are used or melted to be used as new items, and food is composted to soil or biogas. Most of their garbage trucks are powered by biogas or recycled electricity. In addition, wasted water is purified to the highest level of being drinkable.