Sweden, where I’m from, is known for its pristine natural areas, reliable public transportation, and bike-friendly cities. Sweden is also known for its state-of-the-art recycling system. This is How Sweden Has Made recycling a working system.
Since the 1970s, when Sweden began working on reducing waste and pushing recycling, the country has made significant progress in its recycling revolution. In the past fifty years, recycling has become habitual for Swedes. A whopping 99% of household waste is recycled in Sweden today, a massive increase from 38% when the program launched.
Packaging made of glass, metal, cardboard, and plastic is recycled all over Sweden, as well as batteries, electronic waste, and food waste. Less than 1% of household waste in Sweden finds its way to landfills, according to Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling association.
How has Sweden achieved a Recycling Revolution?
Primarily, it’s due to legislation.
The Swedish government created legislation stating that recycling centers must be within 1,000 feet of residential areas. As a result, accessibility and availability of recycling for Swedish residents skyrocketed. Swedes in large cities, remote countryside dwellings, and everywhere in between have access to recycling.
In addition, apartment buildings have recycling rooms, and each house has its own bins. However, recycling stations are always close by if you live in a place without bins.
Secondly, a practical piece of legislation was introduced requiring producers of packaging and newspapers to be responsible for collecting and recycling the packaging they produce.
Government legislation also successfully made Sweden a circular economy that reduces waste, decreases pollution, and saves tax money and resources. A circular economy is a model that uses products that can be reused completely, a “cradle-to-cradle” approach.
Where my family and I live in the US, we are pushing hard for better recycling. Today, about 50% of waste ends up in a landfill, 24% is recycled, 12% is incinerated, and 9% is composted. Sadly, less than 9% of all plastic is recycled.
One of the major problems I see and hear from my neighbors is how confusing our recycling system is. Knowing what can and cannot go in the recycling bin is challenging. In addition, so few items can be recycled. And if you do not live in a home where you own a blue bin, it can be difficult to find a recycling center.
There are also few places to recycle other things like batteries, packing peanuts, plastic bags, and electronics unless you’re willing to travel and do a lot of research.
The good news is that the US can look to Sweden as an example when implementing our own Recycling Revolution. But first, we must convince legislators that we want to see a change. Consider writing to your representatives today!
To learn more about sustainability and Sweden check out this post
We can learn more from Sweden’s waste management and here is my post about that.