The Uppsala central heat plant at the combined heat and power plant. Sweden is a leading recycler, sending just 4 percent of its trash to landfills. Its waste-to-energy program generates 20 percent of the nation’s district heating and electricity for a quarter-million homes, but it needs a boost from Norway to continue.
Norway pays Sweden to take its trash, Sweden gets the heat and electricity, and Sweden exports the burned debris back to Norway. Swedes aren’t producing enough garbage for their successful watse-to-energy program.
Sweden is apparently way too good at recycling.
In a country where only 4 percent of waste goes to landfills, officials have had to start importing trash so they can keep making heat and electricity.
The Scandinavian country runs a wildly successful waste-to-energy program, generating 20 percent of the nation’s district heating and generating electricity for a quarter-million homes.
But Swedes just aren’t producing enough garbage for the program and have found a unique solution: importing trash from neighboring Norway, according to a Public Radio International report.
The deal works out pretty well for Sweden.
Norway pays Sweden to take its trash, and Sweden gets heat and electricity and then exports the burned debris back to Norway.
“So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency,” Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Catarina Ostlund told PRI.
“But I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more, so maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,” Ostlund said.
Thinking about the future, Ostlund said she would like to see Sweden import trash from countries outside Scandinavia.
“I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries,” she said. “They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste.”
This wouldn’t be a long-term solution, Ostlund said, because as time goes on, countries really just need to start reusing and recycling better.