Why Is Sweden Buying Trash From Other Countries?
In 2012, Sweden began importing nearly a million
tons of trash from its European neighbors. The Swedes claimed that they themselves simply
did not produce enough trash, and need more. Only four percent of household waste is landfilled
in Sweden each year. But why on earth would ANYBODY want MORE trash? Why is Sweden buying
other countries’ trash? Well, in fact, the global waste market is
estimated to be worth almost half a trillion dollars a year. Shipping trash from country
to country, and burning massive amounts of fuel in the process, is primarily an economic
decision. Many countries and cities charge a landfill tax, which in some places can be
as high as $100 a tonne. Instead, some choose to ship their trash elsewhere, for considerably
less money. In 2010, China imported more than 39 million tons of recyclable waste. Most
of it came from European countries. But in the case of Sweden, it is actually
less of a cost-saving measure, and more of an energy saving measure. Sweden buys trash
from nearby countries like Norway, and uses it for electricity. Over two millions tons
of that waste is burned and converted into power for over 250,000 homes. This sort of
exchange is called Waste-to-Energy, and is becoming increasing popular in Europe. However, despite the cost savings and recycling
benefits, WTE plants are not necessarily the best for the earth. According to the environmental
Integrity Project, these plants can produce more pollutants than even coal-fire plants.
In fact, issues with pollution from WTE plants have led China to actually stop accepting
dirty and unsorted waste. They have also imposed stricter limits on polluting recycling plants. Buying each other’s trash may sound kind
of crazy, but it’s actually an ingenious solution to issues with taxation and energy.
Of course, when it’s cheaper to send waste out of the country than simply dealing with
it at home, there may be a bigger problem at stake. Either way, we’re going to need
a lot more ingenious solutions, because the world’s population is rising, and so is
our level of trash. Sweden may burn some of its trash but the
United States does not. Find out the reason why in this video by DNews. Thanks for watching
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