Less than 1 percent of its waste goes to landfills
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States recycles approximately 35 percent of its total waste, placing it at No. 18 on the list of countries winning the recycling race. Although No. 1 is Germany, which recycles 65 percent of its waste, it’s the seventh-ranked Sweden (50 percent) that’s grabbing the world’s attention. That’s because Sweden is so good at recycling that it’s been importing trash from other countries just to keep its recycling plants going.
While Sweden recycles an impressive half of its trash, only one percent ever makes it to a landfill because the country converts the other 49 percent of its garbage into heat at incineration plants. “In the southern part of Europe they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” Anna-Carin Gripwall, the director of communications for the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association told the Independent. After the trash is burned, the energy expelled goes into a national heating network.
Sweden’s recycling program doesn’t just benefit the Scandinavian utopia’s citizens, but neighboring countries as well. Sweden has been importing garbage from neighboring countries after the European Union’s decision to discourage landfill use. Due to a ban on landfill in EU countries, they send them their waste instead of paying the fine.
The Swedish people’s commitment to recycling comes from a culture that has a deep appreciation for nature. “Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need do on nature and environmental issues,” Gripwall said. “We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse.”