Friday, November 9, 2012

Sweden’s Trash Crisis: They Need More of It

By Christian Crisostomo, November 8, 2012, The Environmental Trash management is one of the most serious problem points that our civilization currently has to tackle in order to properly solve our problems in pollution. Every day, we see truckloads of waste go into landfills, with a good amount of it heading out into open seas. Strangely though, this is hardly an issue in Sweden. You may find it hard to believe this, but this north-eastern European country has been reusing and reprocessing 96% of all of their trash for quite a long time already. Yes, that means only a very miniscule 4% heads to their landfills. You might even be amazed that their problems are exactly the other way around. They are actually in serious need of trash, and they plan on getting some from nearby countries. The recycling program of Sweden is very simple. They gather all of the waste material that they can find, and burn them in incinerators. While the use of incinerators in other countries as direct energy sources is inefficient, the generally cold climate in the north makes this source of energy economically viable in Sweden. Through the years, the efficiency of simply using waste to generate energy has been looked at more and more, and the amount of energy recovered from incinerating trash has significantly increased. But the country itself also grows, which means that there is an ever increasing demand for more and more energy as time passes. This is where the dilemma starts. Sweden’s trash is now insufficient to properly supply the energy needed by the entire country. This is where they have come up with a very enticing solution. Since it is impossible to increase the “production output” of trash, the Swedes would just have to get trash where it is more abundant. Yes, Sweden is planning to directly import tons of trash from other countries. Their primary target is of course the nearby countries, and that’s where Norway comes in. The basic part of the arrangement was for Norway to pay Sweden for taking away their trash. The deal works to benefit both countries two-fold. Norway gets to expand their trash management program and reduce costs in burning trash, while Sweden stabilizes their energy production and gets an added “tip” for picking out their neighbor’s trash. Sweden is currently looking forward to expanding their trash importation project, and they plan on finding good prospects in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and other Baltic countries. The most notable toxic materials that are released in incinerators are dioxins and furans, and this is part of the remaining 4% of the trash that still gets landfilled in Sweden. Part of the deal between Norway and Sweden was for the ashes that contain these environmentally hazardous materials to be collected and sent back to Norway, where it will be mixed with other toxic metals to be locally landfilled. Source