Sweden is regarded as one of the global leaders in sustainable waste management and in reducing carbon footprint per capita. The country is actively working to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, increase energy efficiency and raise awareness among the public. 52% of their trash is burnt to convert it into energy and the remaining 47% is being recycled. Only 1% is Sweden’s trash ends up in landfill. The Swedish government are taking initiatives to reduce their 1% trash and eventually make it to zero waste.
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Sweden has developed a world class waste collection system. The ideas behind this to make the people involved in the process. Now, recycling is a part of Swedish culture. Swedish communities teach their children about the recycling making sure that each and every individual takes part in the process and make sure that every citizen knows how to recycle. The locals sort out their recyclable garbage from other food waste in their homes prior to disposing it. The people just need to go the nearest recycling station which is located within 300 meters from the residential area. The recycling station has different bins for collecting the paperboard waste, aluminum cans, transparent glass, colored glass, clear plastic bottles, and colored plastic containers. It is a very effective way to make sure that recycling streams are not contaminated and also, making sure that most of the recyclables are ending being recycled. They have a very unique way of encouraging recycling; they provide incentives to people who recycle. Swedish people earn discount coupons as a reward for using nearby recycling machines. As a result, on an average, the Swedish people visit the recycling stations at least two times a week. They have a national holiday for recycling on which children across the country pick up garbage and clean up their surroundings. Children are taught to make their own paper and learning their country’s waste policies in the schools.
Since, recycling is a lifestyle for Swedish people. The governing bodies as well as the people have realized importance of spreading awareness and encourage the process. The most effective way to address the population is through television and public. In Sweden, famous musicians record songs and commercials to encourage people to recycle. They deposit the plastic bottles and cans to get money in exchange of it. In Sweden, people are encouraged to reuse before they can recycle their product. Reusing requires less energy as compared to recycling. Electronic items are most commonly reused item by Swedish people. As they use refurbished laptops, phones, music players, they contribute to reduce the consumption of new products which are made from new materials. As a result, the country conserves more of its resources.
Sweden prefer to incinerate the waste once collected, incinerating the waste at incineration plants provides heat in the houses of Sweden. The waste-to-energy plants burns over 50 percent of the waste generated in Sweden and the energy produced by these power plants heats homes throughout the country during the long winter months. The ash and the byproducts from the burning process is used in road constructions. Still, Sweden doesn’t create enough waste fuel the waste to energy plants. In order to keep its waste to energy plants burning, Sweden imports waste from other countries. By doing this Sweden is saving money by replacing the use of fossil fuels with waste to generate energy as well as making 100 million USD annual profit by importing the waste produced by other countries. In early 1990’s the Swedish government regulated the waste management program with its local cities but, now they regulate with the industries to produce materials which would eventually turn into waste to keep the incineration plants running. The government provide tax benefits to such companies to make the plan more financially attractive.
Sweden has revolutionized it recycling policies which helps to be recognized as a zero-waste country. Along with it, Sweden has transformed the high-cost waste liability into a profitable business model through a welcoming nationwide recycling strategy. As the global energy demand continues to grow with ever increasing population, the availability of fossil fuels is steadily decreasing. With the increase in population the waste production will also increase. Their business model is based on turning trash into energy by burning it to their houses warm. By doing this they are able to stop the garbage entering into landfill. However, this has increased negative environmental impacts. Their incineration plants try to filter the byproducts before releasing in the environment, still they emit nontoxic carbon dioxide in the air. Because this process uses garbage that are generally organic, it releases the carbon from the materials in much faster rate.
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Having said that, Sweden’s waste management strategies can also be aligned in with triple bottom line. The strategy provides cleaner environment (including non- toxic co2) and cost-effective way to provide heat energy in the country. The strategy is heavily demanding the participation and encouragement of the people living in the country. The citizens are completely involved in the recycling process and are rewarded with incentives to recycle and also, incorporate the value of recycling in the young generation. And in the end, they get profits by making sure that they reduce cost by not using the fossil fuels which are much costlier than the garbage.
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