Recycling Station. Photo: Tobias Röstlund/TT.
Recycling Station. Photo: Tobias Röstlund/TT.

Scientists: stop burning plastic

"A lot of plastic is not recycled"
2:13 min

Swedish scientists say that burning plastic garbage is just as bad to the environment as oil or coal, and recommend stopping the practice.

Many parts of Sweden, including Stockholm, burn garbage to use as fuel to heat their water and houses, even importing garbage from other countries. But researchers in Sweden are now advising they stop burning plastic, which can be as bad to the environment as oil or coal.

Åke Brömster spoke with Swedish Radio News as he was throwing out his garbage at a dump just outside of Stockholm.

"What are you supposed to do?" Brömster said. "There is really no better alternative that I know of. You try to avoid it, by having natural materials like wood and others. But plastic is practical, easy and cheap."

The container that Brömster just threw out his plastic garbage in is full of mixed waste; a large amount of it is synthetic, a wall-to-wall carpet, a lamp shade and other similar items.

Around a tenth of all garbage, which is mostly burned to heat Swedish water and central heating systems, is made up of plastic, according to trade organization the Swedish Waste Management association, and a large part of the plastic that is burned is made of often environment-damaging fossil raw materials.

According to Torleif Bramryd, professor of environmental strategies at Lunds University in southern Sweden, up to 30 percent of garbage burned is made up of plastic.

"Plastic comes from fossils, it is made of oil and in certain cases natural gas. And the burning of plastic and synthetic materials - synthetic textiles, synthetic rubber and other similar materials - make up a large portion of garbage. That means that you burn an oil-based product and the release of fossil carbon dioxide is just as much as when you burn coal and oil," Bramryd told Swedish Radio News.

A lot of the plastic in Sweden is recycled, but not all of it, Weine Wiqvist from the Swedish Waste Management association told Swedish Radio News.

"A lot of plastic and packaging is not recycled, so it is going to end up in the rubbish that ends up being incinerated", Bramryd told Swedish Radio, "so in that way they do become part of the fossil fuel emissions."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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