Sweden imports Europe's garbage

Photo: Pontus Lundahl/Scanpix
A garbage incineration plant outside Stockholm, Photo: Pontus Lundahl/Scanpix

Sweden doesn’t seem to have enough rubbish, and has to import more from abroad.

Sweden needs garbage for home heating. Every since a ban was imposed on dumping household wastes in landfills, everything that isn’t separated for recycling goes to special facilities. They burn the garbage to heat water, which is then piped to homes and offices.

The problem is that too many of those facilities have been built, and according to one expert who talked to the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, in a few years Sweden will have a 2 million ton over-capacity for garbage incineration.

Published onsdag 9 februari 2011 kl 12:05

The solution has been to import wastes from abroad, last year more than 600,000 tons, mostly from neighboring Norway.

Of more than 500,000 tons burned last year at a facility in Gothenburg, the newspaper writes, 140,000 tons came from Norway.

The Norwegians are apparently pleased, as they have lagged behind in switching from landfill to heat production. This is a European problem, as it’s estimated that every year 150 million tons of garbage gets sent to landfills across the continent.

In fact, in November, Swedish Television News reported that the garbage crisis filling the streets of Naples could be solved by shipping the stuff off to Sweden. A Norwegian-British consortium was exploring the possibility of sending 100,000 tons of Italian wastes to Scandinavia, using ships whose cargo holds would otherwise be empty for the return journey to the north.

But not everyone thinks all this is a good idea. The Gothenburg branch of the Swedish Society for Conservation and Greenpeace are opposed to just burning garbage, arguing that more recycling would be better for the environment.

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