The headline is shocking—but true!
Sweden has 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants which actually provide 20 % of district heating needs and enough electricity for approximately 250,000 Swedish residences. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the country now annually imports about 800,000 tons of garbage from elsewhere in Europe in order to meet their needs.
Conversely, Americans only recycle approximately 34% of their garbage, and the Environmental Protection Agency claims that upwards of 50% of U.S. household trash is simply sent to landfills for ultimate disposal. This equates to around 136 million tons (136,000,000!); the New York Times reports that only a minute fraction of the waste is burned in ways that benefit society’s needs (such as energy), and also that a large percentage of what is burned makes its way into landfills regardless.
Globally, upwards of 40% of garbage is predominantly burned in the open air, which his more harmful to the environment than low-emission burns, and, as mentioned, is entirely unbeneficial to increasing demands for cleaner and cheaper energy. In an era in which all human beings should aim for a carbon footprint of zero, all countries should embrace these types of Swedish ideologies: both in order to do their individual parts, and to encourage other countries and inhabitants to do theirs as well.
Want to help, but don’t know how? Checkout these examples, read about a zero-garbage grocery store in Germany, and learn how an American restaurant has been waste-free for over two years. Each individual can make a difference, and if each person actually does, the results will be of global size and significance.
*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/11/26/sweden-runs-out-of-garbage-only-1-ends-up-in-landfills/.
Written by Matt Prout