Sweden Now Recycles a Staggering 99 Percent of its Garbage
Despite criticism of the incineration program, its proponents are quick to defend it. Anna-Carin Gripwall from Swedish Waste Management explains, “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gases, it is obviously not good for the environment. Waste-to-energy is a smart alternative, with less environmental impact, taking into account both by-products of incineration and emissions from transport. Plus, recovering energy from waste exploits a resource that would otherwise be wasted.” Sweden’s WTE plants also currently put out about half the emissions levels that they are permitted to by law.
The Swedes note that such a program is only feasible in a country with a good waste separation system, to ensure that recyclable materials, foodstuffs, and hazardous waste such as batteries, light bulbs and electrical waste aren’t incinerated. They are also clear that the best long-term solution for waste management is producing less waste in the first place. As Göran Skoglund from WTE company Öresundskraft states: “The world has a garbage problem, there is no doubt about that, but in the meantime, waste incineration and extracting energy from the waste is a good solution.” According to the EPA, in 2012 the U.S. only reclaimed 34.5 percent of its waste.