So how is trash and recycling handled here in Sweden? That question has now been put to me a couple of time from Americans since I moved here. When I first arrived it all seemed rather confusing which is why I have waited so long to do this post. I would often remark that you need a P.H.D. in order to know how to deal with the trash. At first I had to ask about every thing. For the most part now I can successfully navigate around what to do with each piece of trash.
Each house hold probably has their own system but the trash is separated. We separate the trash into six different categories as follows, Burnable, food waste, plastic, newspaper, pant, and all others including other paper, batteries, lightbulbs metal etc. Burnables is really anything that does not fit into a recyclable category. In order to not make this a long post and still provide information I am going to do a couple of blog post about trash and recycling. Today I will focus on food waste.
All food waste is put into a small paper bag. In the housing complex where I currently live there is a large palate of paper bags for the residents to use. I have also seen the paper bags for sale at the grocery stores. If you clean out your fridge the food that you are throwing out goes into the paper bag. Or the scrap food left over on your plate after dinner also go into the paper bag. Also things like coffee grounds are placed in the paper bag. When the paper bag is full it goes into a special trash can for food waste. The waste food is taken to the biofuel plant where it is turned into biofuel. The biofuel is then used to power the electric/heating plant or to be used as a fuel for the public transportation busses. There is an article in the New York Times specifically about Kristianstad titled Using Waste, Swedish City Cuts Its Fossil Fuel Use. The Youtube video embedded below goes into greater detail about the turning the waste into biofuel.
According to Wired Sweden only sends four percent of its trash to landfills because of the efficiency of recycling. They have managed to turn what once once an expensive problem and still is for many parts of the world into a creative solution to both protect the environment and and continue to provide services to their residents. In a Wikipedia article on food waste a study referred to estimated that in North America that we waste 650 pounds (295 kg) of food per person per year. Food waste thrown into landfills adds methane to the atmosphere.
Just imagine if all food waste in the United States was turned into biofuel and converted into electricity? How many coal power plants could be eliminated? The world of a greener future is before us if only our governments make that commitment to finance and build the infrastructure needed to support this greener alternative. The city of Kristianstad has already made that commitment. Stay tuned for more about trash and recycling.