Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sweden Has Run Out Of Garbage And Is Forced To Import

Via Business Insider:

A fascinating story about Sweden is circulating in media outlets around the world this week. In short, Sweden is so good at reusing garbage for energy that the country has run out and has recently been forced to import trash from other European countries to keep its garbage burning facilities running.

In essence, Yes, this is almost true - Sweden is crazy good at recycling.

Sweden is exceptionally good at recycling and putting garbage to use. More than 50% of the country's energy is generated from renewables and only 1% of Swedish household waste ends up in landfills. 20% of the energy for Sweden's district heating systems are generated by garbage incinerators.

Here's where the story falters:

1. Sweden does not really import garbage from other countries.

If Sweden bought trash from other countries to run its energy facilities that would be one thing. But Sweden's deal in this is a lot sweeter than that. The countries that send garbage to Sweden pay Sweden for the service of taking care of their waste. So Sweden actually makes a profit from taking on free fuel for energy.

2. Sweden is not forced to take on garbage - it just happens to be a gold mine.

The heat generating facilities charge about $43 per ton of trash, according to Svenska Dagbladet. In 2014, Sweden was sent 2.3 million tons - so that's almost $100 million in revenues... Other countries should probably learn to take care of their own shit - it's a gold mine.

3. Sweden has not suddenly run out of garbage to burn.

Swedish facilities have had an overcapacity for burning garbage for a long time - if only Sweden's domestic garbage production is considered.

Taking in garbage from other countries began many years ago. In part because Sweden was early in putting a tax on fossile fuels, back in 1991. Also, because heating is one of the major uses for energy for any country located so far to the North, incineration is particularly effective in Sweden - the heat can be distributed directly to district heating systems without being transformed into electricity.

With that said, Sweden's international garbage collection has grown quickly in recent years. Between 2005 and 2014, the amount imported increased fourfold. 2,3 million tons in 2014 corresponds to about 820 garbage trucks per day.

Burning garbage actually reduces CO2-emissions - in comparison to the alternative.

In Sweden, the discussion goes that it would be preferable to properly sort and recycle garbage instead of burning 85-90% of it. Incineration does of course contribute to CO2-emissions.

However, the net CO2-emissions from burning the garbage of other countries is actually negative, compared to the alternative of letting those countries take care of their own trash.

The net CO2-emissions for trash from England, Ireland or Italy burnt in Sweden is actually negative. This includes enviroinmental effects of deposits, transports and energy production.

Fortum estimates that CO2-emissions are decreased by 290-570 kg per ton garbage recieved from other countries.

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