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Sweden Reduces European Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Importing Waste


With all these heated discussions going on across Europe about handling and dumping waste, it is almost unbelievable that Sweden is facing the exact opposite problem- there is not enough garbage.

The country has long history of recycling and incinerating waste, to the point that they have much more waste-to-energy incinerators than there is a demand for. The country has now become the biggest importer of waste in Europe, with Norway being their main customer at present.

Since European Union is planning to reduce the amounts of rubbish sent to landfills, Sweden has the opportunity to provide their recycling services to a larger audience. As Weine Wiqvist, head of trade association Swedish Waste Management points out, the import is not a problem for Sweden, while the increasing landfill sites in Europe are.

Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are also importing waste, which might come very useful to other EU nations as they have to comply with the new regulations.

Although Eastern Europe is the one needing these services the most, Britain and Italy are not far behind, considering the number of landfill sites on their territories.

The total import of Sweden for last year reaches 850,000 tonnes of combustible waste, out of which 5.5 million tonnes were incinerated. Predictions indicate that by 2016 these numbers are very likely to double.

According to Johan Sundberg Energy and waste consultant at Profu, heat and power plants are built to take on imported waste. In addition, Sundberg estimated that if as little as 1 tonne of Italian waste is incinerated in Sweden, the amount of emissions not released in the atmosphere from landfill sites. Other experts also agree that this is much better for the environment, than landfills.

Half of Sweden’s combustible waste is used for heating and electricity production, and none goes to landfills.  Around 90% of the waste’s energy is captured by CHP plants connected in a heating grid.

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