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Why Sweden needs more trash

Posting in Energy

Sweden is running into a problem you don't hear about everyday: it doesn't have enough trash.

The country has a successful waste-to-energy program. It produces energy from 2 million tons of waste each year, heating 810,000 homes and providing electricity to 250,000 homes. The problem, however, is that Sweden's waste management system is so efficient that only four percent of household waste goes to landfills, the rest is reused and recycled. Typically this wouldn't be a problem except that Sweden doesn't have enough burnable trash for their waste-to-energy plants. So Sweden has turned to their neighbors for a surprising solution, Public Radio International reports:

Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. The majority of the imported waste comes from neighboring Norway because it’s more expensive to burn the trash there and cheaper for the Norwegians to simply export their waste to Sweden.

But they're not importing in the traditional sense. Norway actually pays Sweden to take their waste. Then, when Sweden is done burning that waste (and gaining the benefits of heat and electricity), they have agreed to let Sweden export the toxic ashes of the waste byproduct back to Norway to be dumped in a landfill.

Eventually, if more European countries follow Sweden's model, will countries be able to make money by exporting their waste?

(h/t Fast Co. Exist)

Photo: Flickr/maol

— By on October 24, 2012, 1:49 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure