Zero Waste – What can we learn from Sweden?
It’s never been more urgent to recognise that we need to consume less and recycle more.
Our planet is warming and inhabitants suffering in the face of plastic waste, chemicals seeping into our waterways and resources depleting. In this blog, we draw inspiration from our neighbours in Scandinavia and look to see how they have tackled waste management to become an almost zero waste country.
What is zero waste?
In the UK we currently only recycle 45.2% of our total waste. The rest of our rubbish is dumped into landfill to be buried. Whilst recycling rates have gradually increased over the past few decades, we still have a real hurdle to leap to become a country dedicated to zero waste. Not to mention hitting the government target of recycling 50% of our waste by 2020.
Zero waste means recycling or re-using all waste to ensure nothing is dumped or buried to damage the earth. Examples can include reusing and recycling glass bottles (that do not disintegrate or degrade) ensuring there is no wastage of this precious resource. Composing vegetable waste is another example as the product of the waste can be used again to grow more vegetables.
How does Sweden achieve zero waste?
One of the main ways that Sweden has achieved zero waste is by adopting a dedicated recycling program. Waste is thoroughly sorted both at consumer level and at recycling plants to ensure that any reusable resources are not wasted. Anything that cannot be recycled is then sent for incineration. Sweden has achieved an enviable rate of reusing or repurposing 99% of their waste.
What happens to waste that cannot be recycled?
Anything that cannot be reused or recycled is incinerated and the energy produced used to power homes and businesses. Household waste is thoroughly sorted to ensure that anything that can be recycled such as glass, plastic, metals, electrical items and batteries are used again. Sweden has around 32 energy producing plants. The country even imports waste from the UK, Ireland, Italy and Norway to keep up with the demand. Some of Sweden’s rubbish trucks even run on biogas. The burned waste is passed through various filters to make it as environmentally friendly as possible, and any water waste is then made potable.
Is this method truly zero waste?
It’s a fact that the burning of waste produces damaging gasses into the atmosphere, so not entirely zero waste. Until the amount of waste we produce is reduced, incineration is by far the most environmentally friendly alternative to landfill.
What can we learn?
One of the first steps to zero waste is to reduce the amount of waste produced. Consuming less or buying products containing less packaging is a great start. Look to buy smarter – from local businesses, reducing the number of miles your product travels and packaging used. As a business you can tackle waste by analysing consumption and looking for ways to reduce it; be it energy, packaging or processes.
If you need help with your waste management or have products that need to be removed and disposed of responsibly then please contact us. Our shredding and recycling services include the shredding of paper, plastics, clothes, electronic items and any other products that you need collecting removing. Contact us today for a quote.