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The Trash Story of Sweden

It has been reported that “Sweden has a weird but awesome problem: They are running out of trash.” Since I am in Sweden for my holiday, I am finding out what the problem is and why they have this good problem.

(A) What happens to the trash in a Swedish home

In this home there are 2 bins, and all trash are sorted by:-​

  • Food waste for bio gas for running public buses

  • Colored glass e.g. wine bottles

  • Non-colored glass e.g. wine bottles

  • Metal [only from packaging] e.g. soda cans, can food etc.

  • Cardboard [only from packaging] e.g. milk cartons, cereal box etc.

  • Paper e.g. newspapers, magazines etc.

  • Plastic e.g. soda bottles (most can be exchanged in the shop for 1SKR, i.e. 1 Swedish Krona)

  • Batteries and light bulbs are to be placed into a smaller container

  • All other waste is to be incinerated to produce heat and electricity

Some items are collected every two weeks while some are collected every four weeks by the trucks provided by the kommun (like Singapore’s town council).


Besides these bins, this home also has its own compost. Since their compost is simpler, it cannot breakdown foods with preservatives. Therefore only local fruits and vegetables, cut grass, leaves and flowers go in. Meat also does not go in to avoid pest infestation.


Drink cans and bottles can also be redeemed in the shop through a machine. You place the can/bottle in the machine which will scan the can/bottle and give you a receipt with the amount that you can either cash out or use it to buy things from the shop.


For big items or wastes that are not in the list, you would go to a collection site called Sortergardarnas (translated into sorter farm). Here you can discard things like phones, washing machines, car batteries, wood from house renovation, china etc. You can also deposit usable items and they will sell it in a second hand store, the money collected will be donated to charity. There are at least 20 HUGE bins for different items in this “farm”.

(B) Why do they do it

First of all, if they fully sort out their trash, they have to pay less, which is 1475 SKR (S$210) per year. If they don’t sort out anything they would have to pay 5763 SKR (S$820). The amount you can save is 4288 SKR (S$610) just by sorting out your trash; this is one of the reasons why most Swedish residents choose to sort their trash.

Household Information for the year

They are motivated because the kommun gives them information about what happens to the sorted trash. E.g. the compost in the kommun is turned into bio gas to fuel the town’s buses; the bottle caps generated in Sweden can make 2200 cars. They are also provided with information about the program and how to sort.

Most importantly the Swedish residents genuinely care about the environment. You can see that in their life style, e.g. a Swedish resident would not drive but would walk to a store 1km away.


(C) What is the problem they are having?

Sweden relies on the incineration to help heat up and power the towns, and since majority of their trash is recycled, with only 10-20% of household waste being incinerated, they have been importing trash from other countries. Fortunately, they get paid to take others’ trash. So the problem is good!

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