Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sweden is running out of garbage
August 3, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Sweden is putting only four percent of its household waste in landfills (the US puts about half of its garbage in landfills) and much of the remainder is used for heating through an innovative waste-to-energy program. The problem? They are now running out of garbage, and have to import from neighbouring countries.
posted by Harald74 (64 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sometimes I think the Scandinavian countries are just a fiction designed to make me feel bad about being an American.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:32 AM on August 3, 2013 [189 favorites]


Is it actually cost-effective to import garbage purely as a fuel? What's the energy density of garbage as compared to, say, brown coal, or some other cheap fuel?

There are a lot of idled bulk carrier ships sitting around right now, as a result of the economic downturn. If there was a market for garbage import/export the capacity probably exists to haul it from the US to Sweden. Hell, they could load it up right at Newark... it might even have fewer carbon emissions associated with it (given the efficiency of water transportation) than the "garbage trains" that were running from NYC down to Virginia landfills a few years ago.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's this kind of news that has had me reviewing the immigration websites for the various Scandinavian governments over the last year. I want in.
posted by Unified Theory at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I dunno about Scandanavia. Netflix tells me it's filled with the most awful, horrible murders.
posted by curious nu at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2013 [64 favorites]


Is it actually cost-effective to import garbage purely as a fuel?

From the first paragraph of TFA:

"In fact, those countries are paying Sweden to do so."

Sweden being paid to take garbage that they can then convert into energy is basically infinite amounts of cost effectiveness.
posted by absalom at 9:42 AM on August 3, 2013 [49 favorites]


I'd expect that importing its fuel becomes not merely cost but actually energy efficient over some distance because you've already you've already invested in the infrastructure. Those transport ships aren't fully robotic sailboats though so this distance remains limited. I'd expect American garbage has lower energy density and more toxic metals and plastics when compared with European garbage too.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2013


personal fantasy:

Turn this into a program where African countries get paid something to export their garbage, thereby creating an incentive to put together waste collection systems and not just have everyone burning their plastic bags and batteries all the time forever.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:49 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Garbage mining is shaping up to be the 21st century's plastics.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:50 AM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I like cold weather. I like socialism. I like mountains, snow and skiing. I like low population. I like fish. I like the sea. I like ecologically sound practices. I like atheism. I like Abba.

Ah, Scandinavia. If your booze wasn't so madly expensive I'd move there in a heartbeat.
posted by Decani at 9:51 AM on August 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


From the PRI article:
But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway.
It also sounds like the domestic market is buoyed by the mandatory statutes Sweden has on preventing combustible or organic wastes from going to the landfill along with increased taxation on landfill designated property. The PRI article also states that recycling is mandatory in Sweden, which would offset some of the infrastructure costs on to the civilian population. This NYT article says that Norway is also facing a garbage deficit and that it "prefers to stick with what it said was the cleaner and safer English wastes" when asked about importing trash from Italy. I wonder if it's even feasible for this to market to exist outside of a niche without putting the pressure on individuals to do their part and recycle.
posted by dubusadus at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2013


This is like something out of Sim City. ;-)
posted by pjmoy at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sweden being paid to take garbage that they can then convert into energy is basically infinite amounts of cost effectiveness.

Right, but my question was whether garbage might at some point be cost-effective to export purely on its own merits as a carbon fuel.

Presumably as petroleum and coal prices increase eventually you get to a point where the energy density of garbage starts to look attractive. Although perhaps as the price of petroleum goes up, the amount of plastic in garbage decreases, meaning that the energy density and attractiveness of garbage as a fuel also goes down.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:08 AM on August 3, 2013


Kadin2048: "Right, but my question was whether garbage might at some point be cost-effective to export purely on its own merits as a carbon fuel."

When fuel costs start to be about the actual fuel efficiency rather than maximizing profit, I imagine we won't have to worry about questions like that anymore.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:13 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti...
posted by not_on_display at 10:15 AM on August 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway."

Heavy metal.

Norway.

This explains a lot.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:24 AM on August 3, 2013 [27 favorites]


"You don't even know if our species are sexually compatible."

"The hell I don't. I can see fingers and tongue from here; everything else is gravy."

-exchange between Mickey (an alien cyborg) and Mary

Off the Wall at Callahan's
By Spider Robinson

Anyone that thinks a mer-creature's lack of genitals would be an impediment to writing doesn't write. Hell, Sirens have been around for a long time and they get people to jump to their deaths by singing.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2013 [75 favorites]


Well that's the best misplaced post I've seen in awhile.
posted by dismas at 10:34 AM on August 3, 2013 [96 favorites]


I hope none of the burned garbage in these programs is irreplaceable natural resources.
posted by DU at 10:39 AM on August 3, 2013


Easy, burn all the missing mermaid genitals.
posted by lattiboy at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


The source for the pachamama article seems to be huffpo and the source for the huffpo article was this pri article and radio program.
posted by bhnyc at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2013


My singing has also caused people to jump to their death.
posted by ryanrs at 10:46 AM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a fantastic problem to have. To have countries paying you to take garbage, which you then turn around and use to generate energy - marvellous.
posted by arcticseal at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2013


I don't tell many people this but the real reason I acquired an EU passport is so I can move to Sweden and just be intolerably smug all the time.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is the energy density of american waste stream, when compared to bitumen sands? lignite?
posted by eustatic at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2013


This is a fantastic problem to have. To have countries paying you to take garbage, which you then turn around and use to generate energy - marvellous.

Ontario, Toronto in particular, exported waste to Michigan for a long time. It was and still is the cheapest place to dump garbage. Nowadays it is just Canadian industrial waste that is dumped in Michigan because of a treaty agreement banning the cross border movement of municipal waste.
posted by srboisvert at 11:04 AM on August 3, 2013


Genius! Blows my mind.
posted by Mojojojo at 11:12 AM on August 3, 2013


I love this story. So did the city of Harrisburg, PA. Then they went bankrupt trying to meet air pollution safety requirements.

So no, this is not cost effective in the US.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:15 AM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I waited a bit to ask, because I didn't want to steer the conversation the wrong way. After all, this is a great post and interesting stuff, at that. But who exactly are the Pachamama Alliance and how icked out should I be that they segue from the very interesting news about Sweden's garbage into a sort of press release thing about their own not directly related efforts?

Again, great post, and I don't mean in any way to cast aspersions against either the post or the news about Sweden, but something about the second half of that link makes me wish I had another link somehow.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:17 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like cold weather. I like socialism. I like mountains, snow and skiing. I like low population. I like fish. I like the sea. I like ecologically sound practices. I like atheism. I like Abba.

Ah, Scandinavia. If your booze wasn't so madly expensive I'd move there in a heartbeat.


I hardly drink and could easily give it up.

*starts packing*



The US has pollution standards--as well it should. But this is entirely doable--I'd much rather my tax dollar went to subsidize research and development of fuel production from garbage than give it to the oil companies.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2013


Is it actually cost-effective to import garbage purely as a fuel? What's the energy density of garbage as compared to, say, brown coal, or some other cheap fuel?

I think the problem is that Sweden has built a lot of incineration plants. Given a diet of unsorted rubbish these offer a better solution than landfill - both diapers and recycled plastic have an energy density greater than coal for example. The problem is that incineration itself falls quite far down the hierarchy of recycling value - if the Swedes are throwing less stuff out and sorting their trash better then there will not be so much juicy stuff left to burn. Ditto for other countries.

The argument is linked in with the notion of subsidies too - in particular to those given to the biomass industry. There are now rather a lot of subsidies incinerators around chasing fuel. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the days of countries paying the Swedes to burn their rubbish are going to be short lived.
posted by rongorongo at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why couldn't this have been happening back in 1987?
posted by deezil at 11:47 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: my question was whether garbage might at some point be cost-effective to export purely on its own merits as a carbon fuel.

Riki tiki: When fuel costs start to be about the actual fuel efficiency rather than maximizing profit, I imagine we won't have to worry about questions like that anymore.

The cost-benefit equation for harvesting and using or exporting fuel is complex, especially if you take into consideration the environmental impacts and the costs for addressing those (which often isn't the case, because those costs are externalized and covered by other entities at a later date). So it's more complex than just looking at the energy density, or the cost in extracting the fuel and hauling it to an incinerator. With garbage, there's the benefit of not encumbering acres of otherwise usable land for decades, if not forever. Even if you can cap a landfill, you can't build on them, as the underlying material doesn't lend itself to being a stable base material.


anotherpanacea: I love this story. So did the city of Harrisburg, PA. Then they went bankrupt trying to meet air pollution safety requirements.

I'm not seeing any references to air pollution in that article. The article instead focuses on the cost of the incinerator, and the operation didn't bring enough money to recoup the costs. This is an issue for any municipality who looks to expensive facilities or technologies without thoroughly vetting the potential return on investment.

Here's a New York Times article that touches on the many problems of the incinerator, including the air pollution and the failures to make money from steam generation due to leak(s) in the aging system (it was built in 1972, and has had problems since then).

In other words, Harrisburg is not an example of how this technology won't work in the US, but how a problematic system can leech money from a city instead of bringing it wealth.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's frustrating when people present articles like this without any context. Take a look at the numbers - On a mass basis (per ton) this waste to energy process is no better than a coal fired power plant. Compare against the numbers found here for a coal power plant. Lead release per ton is a little lower and cadium is higher (this is for the 2007 case) - A net wash as far as heavy metals release ON MASS BASIS.

The real kicker is the ENERGY BASIS. Doing the numbers (Energy Produced/Amount of stuff burned) shows the waste to energy showing about 9.5 MM Btu/ton; compare that coal which has a heating value around 22-25 MM Btu/ton. To get the same of energy, you'd have to burn roughly twice as much garbage to produce the same amount of energy that coal produces. So technically, you are producing 2x the pollutants vs. comparable coal plant. This is why these plants are not feasible without additional support from the gov't. The EPA regulates on a mass basis as well as an energy basis - Pollution controls are a big problem for something like this.
posted by freshkippers at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


Trash to energy sounds wonderful, but it can be problematic. In order to burn something safely and completely, you need to adjust your processes to the material you are burning. With garbage, there are too many kinds of materials all mixed together and you never know what you are burning.

These folks claim the trash will be carefully sorted, but that's expensive and the first part of the process that will be abandoned due to cost. The pdf claims that the waste producer will carry out presorting, but if you believe that I have a nice bridge at bargain prices.

As far as household waste goes, can you tell PVC from non-chlorinated plastics?
posted by tommyD at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2013


Comparable to lignite and bitumen sands both, eustatic.

It wasn't the air pollution standards that bankrupted Harrisburg, although if you're saying that American municipal government is too incompetent and corrupt to successfully implement anything like this, I might conditionally agree with you, anotherpanacea.

In the American West, there is a lot of room for landfills. San Francisco's trash is driven 44 miles to Livermore to a landfill, and soon over 100 miles to Wheatland; but the costs of that transportation are doubtless what has driven San Francisco to an alleged 80% recycling diversion.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:52 AM on August 3, 2013


In fact, I'm pretty sure Sweden is not running out of trash. It's running out of the particular type of trash that can pass safely through this process without compromising the supposed benefits of this process.
posted by freshkippers at 11:52 AM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seems silly to burn it all. Landfill mining for vital raw materials can't be too far down the road.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:49 PM on August 3, 2013


Minneapolis has a trash incinerator and it is locally quite controversial due to concerns regarding the emissions.
posted by Area Man at 12:52 PM on August 3, 2013


Well I'm in Sweden and I sure am not running out of trash, so that's solved.

A little more-to-the-point inside stuff:

As far as household waste goes, can you tell PVC from non-chlorinated plastics?

No, we're not required to do so. We sort our waste into plastic packages (in some areas even distinguished between "soft" plastic packing material and "hard" plastic packing material), cans (aluminum and other metal containers), paper, carton, colored and white bottles, lamps, and batteries.
The households are supposed to do this sorting; there are recycle stations with containers for some or of all these categories pretty much everywhere.
What's left goes into trash bags and into the actual trash cans for the truck to pick up every two weeks: compostable matter (veggie waste, bones, left over food) into one of them, and "everything else" (stuff that can't be easily separated) into the other. "Everything else" is (more or less) what goes into the burners; the plastic and metal, on the other hand, is sorted, and much of it is recycled in one or another way. Exact practices vary a little locally but that's the general system.

(Some people fuck with the system. One day I found (and salvaged) a working piano at our local bottle recycle station. It was standing on its edge, in the drizzle. I had a Volvo. It opened its jaws (no, wait...) and swallowed the piano. I then drove home, wiggled the instrument (a music-school-type Rösler, the budget line of Petrov) around for a bit in the muddy grass, using two dollies, got it through the basement door and into the basement guest room. That was between 2 and 3 P.M. Then I woke my girlfriend from her afternoon nap and told her "we have a piano".
"What's the news?" Said she. I'm a musician, I own lots of weird keyboard instruments.
"No, a real modern piano. It's a little out of tune, but it's in the downstairs room." Goggle eyes.

When I called the newspaper guy, it took him ten minutes to come to my door. True story. I may have told it before...)
posted by Namlit at 1:27 PM on August 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


To get the same of energy, you'd have to burn roughly twice as much garbage to produce the same amount of energy that coal produces. So technically, you are producing 2x the pollutants vs. comparable coal plant.

Against that, balanceposted by George_Spiggott at 1:32 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's much worse than that, freshkippers.
Mercury output from incinerated waste is thirty times, tonne-for-ton, than that of coal, so it's not a wash in terms of heavy metals.

I don't think there's anything wrong with government subsidies for the production of energy, although I can see how reasonable people might differ. Fossil fuel production for United States is subsidized credibly at the rate of about 10 billion dollars a year.

There are other things that the EPA looks at, besides ton-for-ton energy production. In the Swedish incinerators, only about one third of the carbon is fossil carbon, meaning that the other two-thirds could be called Alternative Energy, which the EPA is very concerned about.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Still, even assuming it works out as a substantial net benefit, it's still a "burn this instead of that" solution, and I'm more enthusiastic about setting our sights higher, as in shooting for things that don't use the atmosphere as a sink at all. Solar and nuclear don't. Nuclear is pretty well damned in the public mind thanks to the godawful technology we used in our haste to monetize atomic energy long before it matured, which is really a pity. So bring on the solar power satellites.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:45 PM on August 3, 2013


It wasn't the air pollution standards that bankrupted Harrisburg

Sure it was: the EPA closed the incinerator in 2003 for dioxin, which would have bankrupt Harrisburg right then and there. So they did an addition $125 million dollar bond to pay to fix it, and ended up going bankrupt, anyway.

Dioxin is bad.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:00 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A more complicated look at Harrisburg's incinerator problem.
But a forensic audit of the debt completed in January said that the crisis would have been averted — or at least been far less severe — if the local officials and advisers had fully complied with state law...

The audit cites a series of certifications filed with the state assuring officials at the state Department of Community and Economic Development that mounting debt at the incinerator would all be paid for by revenues from the incinerator itself — and therefore should not count toward the city’s statutorily imposed borrowing limit.

Those certifications, the audit claims, flew in the face of reality. ...

[An audit team member] said as early as 1996, well before the 2003 retrofit project, officials should have seen warnings that the incinerator’s debt was not sustainable. And yet the parties involved continued to refinance and push forward.
Extensive local coverage here.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:15 PM on August 3, 2013


The point is well made, the Real Dan. I just didn't have the mercury numbers on hand. I have no problems with a subsidy either, and focusing on a novelty process like this detracts from the real issues. A subsidy dollar spent here could do much more in improving the efficiency of our existing processes or not producing the waste the first place.

As far as a carbon loop goes, we still end up burning this garbage and turning the garbage into the CO2. It just a question of where in the lifecycle of a given piece of stuff this burning happens.

I would be careful about claiming that these trash-to-energy process have a *smaller* ecological footprint that a nasty mountaintop removal coal mining process. One large localized source of pollutants is more feasible to control than lots of a little point sources which these trash incinerators look like.
posted by freshkippers at 3:31 PM on August 3, 2013


Sure it was: the EPA closed the incinerator in 2003 for dioxin, which would have bankrupt Harrisburg right then and there. So they did an addition $125 million dollar bond to pay to fix it, and ended up going bankrupt, anyway.

Basically, if you have a lot of organics in your waste stream you have to make sure they don't bring the temperature down enough that dioxins are formed. Isn't this a problem from the last generation of incinerators that is now solved?
posted by biffa at 3:39 PM on August 3, 2013


In Norway, in the early 90s, I worked on a campaign against the local trash incineration system, because of dioxins and heavy metals. Basically, the independent tests we'd commissioned showed that the temperatures were too low, so dioxins formed, and also the pollutants were not as widely dispersed as the plant claimed, so they were concentrated in the local area.

It's very possible that newer plants have fixed many of the problems, but it's never made a lot of sense to me that burning trash is efficient. Sure, if you're doing it, it's good to recycle the waste heat (for industrial or domestic use), but it's not like trash is a very efficient fuel. Recycling will always be the way to go.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:26 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


To get the same of energy, you'd have to burn roughly twice as much garbage to produce the same amount of energy that coal produces. So technically, you are producing 2x the pollutants vs. comparable coal plant.


No, the waste is a by product of another process which you are doing regardless of the potential for use in Energy from Waste combustion. The meaningful metric is the environmental cost of disposing of the waste. Combustion for energy displaces some of your regular fuel while also stopping the waste from going into landfill, so you save that being converted to methane and other gases. Methane is a considerably more potent climate change gas than the co2 you get from the combustion.

The high concentration of things like mercury is a concern but again, its in the waste already.
posted by biffa at 4:35 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The temperatures needed to break down dioxin are typically not reached when burning of plastics outdoors in a burn barrel or garbage pit, causing high dioxin emissions as mentioned above. While plastic does usually burn in an open-air fire, the dioxins remain after combustion and either float off into the atmosphere, or may remain in the ash where it can be leached down into groundwater when rain falls on the ash pile. Fortunately, dioxin and furan compounds very strongly bond to solid surfaces and are not solvated by water so leaching processes are limited to the first few milimeters below the ash pile. The gas-phase dioxins can be substantially destroyed using catalysts, some of which can be present as part of the fabric filter bag structure.

Modern municipal incinerator designs include a high temperature zone, where the flue gas is ensured to sustain a temperature above 850 °C (1,560 °F) for at least 2 seconds before it is cooled down. They are equipped with auxiliary heaters to ensure this at all times. These are often fueled by oil, and normally only active for a very small fraction of the time. Further, most modern incinerators utilize fabric filters (often with Teflon membranes to enhance collection of sub-micron particles) which can capture dioxins present in or on solid particles.
Here's the amazing bit:
Fine particles can be efficiently removed from the flue gases with baghouse filters. Even though approximately 40% of the incinerated waste in Denmark was incinerated at plants with no baghouse filters, estimates based on measurements by the Danish Environmental Research Institute showed that incinerators were only responsible for approximately 0.3% of the total domestic emissions of particulate smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) to the atmosphere in 2006.
Here's why we didn't get any in the US:
Tax credits for plants producing electricity from waste were rescinded in the U.S. between 1990 and 2004
posted by deanklear at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. Back to the Future was right: Mr. Fusion!
posted by 4ster at 6:35 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


So my favorite board game at the moment is this wonderful thing called Power Grid, where the players run rival power companies and hook up various countries for electricity. It's great.

In the game, the power plants you buy run on various resources that you buy at a market. The market is cunningly, yet intuitively, arranged so that the more of a resource is available, the lower is its cost. The available resources are coal, oil, garbage, and uranium. (Not my ranium. Your ranium.)

At the start of the default game (there are lots of expansions and new maps that change things around), Coal starts at $1, Oil at $3. Uranium is $14 (but a little of that tends to go further than the others). And Garbage, surprisingly, is $7. More than one Power Grid newbie, just starting out, figures he'll get ahead of the curve and buy the Garbage plant in the initial layout, and find that he's screwed throughout the early game, having to pay through the nose for everyone's trash. (Thinking about why the game starts out like this, it might be because garbage is sold in units that's worthwhile to make power out of, so effectively one unit of trash would be a lot more volume than the coal or oil required to make the same amount.)

The key to using Garbage successfully in Power Grid is to hold off on it. At the end of every round, the market is replenished by a bit depending on which "Step" of the game it is. As resources are replenished, prices fall. At the start of play Garbage is replenished slowly, but later on it speeds up. You want to wait until Garbage gets down to $3 or $2 before buying a plant.

But all the resources in Power Grid are vulnerable to other players buying them. If multiple players go into Garbage, the price might not ever go down, while Coal and Oil remain relatively cheap, even when the Coal supply rate goes down in Step 3.

I'm not sure that I have a point, other than an interesting similarity between the game (made by a German) and Sweden's garbage situation. Maybe it's that it takes a lot of garbage to make a little energy, and if you get serious about using it, you run out fast?
posted by JHarris at 7:23 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


At some point, as these more innovative North Eurpean countries start to do more and more things correctly, and Americans live in increasing hardship due to short-sighted self-serving practices of our monied elite, I half expect our media to start denying even the existence of Scandinavia or at the very least start spreading fictitious FUD akin to Canada's "Sure the healthcare is free--if you like waiting 8 months for stitches."
posted by sourwookie at 7:31 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sweden needs a new generation of modern vikings who raid other lands for their treasured trash.
posted by homunculus at 9:17 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just curious about how the "innovative waste-to-energy program" link claims that emissions at these plants has been reduced by 90-99%. That seems like the major drawback to waste-to-energy, that it would be a gigantic smokepit, even worse than coal, as the discussion above talked about. Is it possible that this link was telling even close to the truth?
posted by malapropist at 10:33 PM on August 3, 2013


I envision a US to Sweden pipeline, if you will.
posted by telstar at 12:23 AM on August 4, 2013


I envision a US to Sweden pipeline, if you will.

Some form of TrashStoneXL, I'd imagine.
posted by arcticseal at 2:20 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Landfill mining for vital raw materials can't be too far down the road.

Nah, it isn't Crazy Eddie time ... yet.

This is like something out of Sim City. ;-)

It's kinda funny how it jibes with the Al Gore State of the Union.
posted by dhartung at 3:02 AM on August 4, 2013


Sweden is running out of garbage

WÅLL·E hit the wall.
posted by Namlit at 3:32 AM on August 4, 2013


I first became aware of this last year when I was writing an article about whether treating the stumps of downed, diseased trees with herbicides would reduce the spread of disease from those stumps to healthy trees. If you think that sounds boring, imagine the research I had to do: I had to read 20 years worth of scientific papers on TREE STUMPS. I remember thinking nothing could possibly be worse than this. Then I hit a paper from Sweden which asked whether disease spread could be reduced by completely grinding up dead stumps and removing the shavings. I thought "That's ridiculous! Who could afford to do that?". Then in the discussion, the paper explained that in Sweden, they really, really needed the wood shavings.
posted by acrasis at 7:44 AM on August 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


In many ways Scandinavia is like grown up world compared to the USA.
posted by tarvuz at 7:44 AM on August 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nah, the general feeling here is that we're being pampered against our will and patronized by the government. Also: how grown up is it really that they don't have a law against using cell phones while driving - only because all the politicians want to be able to use their cell phone while driving? The same country takes away your driving license when you as much as wiped your sunglasses with alcohol, because of the holy zero-deaths vision in traffic.
Scandinavia may be different, but whether it's better depends on where you look.

(The trash sorting business reminds me of a quip by Stephen Fry about the dozens of trashcans, no, "bins", he's got in front of the house: "now there's the one for paper, the one for plastics, the one for garden waste and the big one for recycle bin instructional leaflets."
Rant over.)
posted by Namlit at 8:46 AM on August 4, 2013


At some point, as these more innovative North Eurpean countries start to do more and more things correctly, and Americans live in increasing hardship due to short-sighted self-serving practices of our monied elite, I half expect our media to start denying even the existence of Scandinavia or at the very least start spreading fictitious FUD akin to Canada's "Sure the healthcare is free--if you like waiting 8 months for stitches."

Did you think that the UK's National Health Service really had 'death panels'?
posted by biffa at 3:37 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


We sort our waste into plastic packages, cans, paper, carton, colored and white bottles, lamps...

A special Ikea bin. Amazing.

There are not many countries in the world that I could be bothered visiting, yet alone outright moving to, given the rigmarole involved, but I make an exception for Sweden, which is, as far as I can tell, the greatest of all known lands.

Sweden also helped me through the problem of worrying about going without a cigarette for long international flights, by inventing snus, which is one of the top five things a human can put into their mouth.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:47 PM on August 4, 2013


bottles, lamps...

A special Ikea bin. Amazing.


heh heh
they used to be called lightbulbs, but what with all the new fangled flickering nonsense....
posted by Namlit at 12:47 AM on August 5, 2013


« Older Articles at ABC, Huffpost, Vulture, The Atlantic W...  |  "I overheard that the land of ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments