Why Sweden is Importing Garbage from Other Countries

Late in 2016, Sweden’s government ran into a truly unique problem. The Scandinavian nation was running out of garbage. Thanks to an innovative waste-to-energy (WTE) program, Sweden was in a position where it was actually forced to import garbage from other nations. In the years since Sweden’s energy revolution has helped the nation virtually eliminate its waste while helping other trash producers rid themselves of refuse.

General Kinematics is dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to make the most of our recycling, one facility at a time. Sweden has made amazing strides to refine their recycling process countrywide. As a company based in the United States, this made us beg the question: Is this a process the United States could adopt?  

Sweden’s Recycling Revolution

Sweden’s population has figured out a way to recycle more than 99 percent of their household waste. In 2015, almost 2.3 metric tons of waste was turned into energy in one of the nation’s 32 plants. More than 900,000 homes — about nine percent of the country — are heated thanks to trash that’s converted into energy.

Though the Swedes do participate in extensive nationwide recycling programs, the country still produces its fair share of waste, just like the rest of the world. They simply use that waste with 99 percent efficiency.

Could the U.S. Benefit from improving WTE?

In theory, it’s entirely possible that the United States — which currently sends about 54 percent of its waste to landfills — could benefit from implementing a more extensive waste-to-energy program. Most statistics indicate that the average American produces about 1,600 pounds of garbage every year; in other words, there is more than enough WTE fuel spread across the nation.

Fortunately, some local governments in the Northeast, Florida, and Idaho have begun to work on WTE programs to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste in their area. After all, not only can WTE convert garbage to energy, it can also reduce the amount of municipal waste in an area by up to 87 percent.

It’s Possible.

The most impressive thing about Sweden’s WTE program is the speed at which it has worked. In 2001, the country was putting about 22 percent of its waste in landfills. Just sixteen short years later, thanks to their aggressive WTE strategy, they’re having to import refuse simply to keep their plants running.

Though Sweden has fewer people than the United States, a comprehensive WTE plan is still scalable. What’s more, the United States would likely not have to worry about running out of personal waste anytime soon.

Looking to the Future at General Kinematics

At General Kinematics, we’re proud to do our small part for the WTE revolution by providing the world’s best WTE support equipment. GK vibratory screens helps separate the waste to improve quality before burning. Our rugged, durable conveyors are the perfect fit for the grueling task of handling bottom ash. The FINGER-SCREEN™ for WTE effectively sizes and separates material. Want to learn more about how GK equipment can improve your process? Contact our technical experts today.

In order to change the way the U.S. recycles we have to change our habits starting at the individual level. The U.S. has taken great strides to educate the population about the importance of recycling, but there is still a way to go. GK is dedicated to innovating the recycling process, and as always improvement starts with our customers. Let us know some of your ideas for how to improve recycling, Comment below!

3 Responses to “Why Sweden is Importing Garbage from Other Countries”

  1. I. C. Eromosele.

    Talk about killing two birds with one stone. The Waste-to-Energy model is brilliant and will need more efficient techniques to reduce the GHG emissions from plastic incineration. Developing economies with power challenges could learn and adopt this method of energy generation.

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