What Can India Learn from Sweden About Handling Trash

What Can India Learn From Sweeden?


Sweden is where Smorgasbord was born and it is a country that is famed for its flat-pack home décor which is powered by solar energy, now the energy of choice for most countries around the world. However, it is facing a bit of bad situation of late. The Scandinavian nation of around 9.8 million people is known to be one of the cleanest of its kind in the world. It is also known for using its waste in order to generate heat and electricity for people across the country. Now, the situation is such that it has had to import waste from its neighbours.

Recycling in Sweden

Swedes normally emphasise significantly on recycling. It is to such an extent that only 1% of the entire waste generated in this country is deposited in landfills. At least, that has been the rate since 2011. It is this habit that has created problems for the country. This programme of transforming waste to energy by way of incineration has been there in Sweden for a long period of time. At the moment, the demand has clearly outstripped supply.

Importing Waste

In order to solve the situation, Sweden is now importing waste from countries such as Norway and England. This is a great deal for this Scandinavian country. Sweden gets waste from other countries and also gets paid in the process for using the same. It just burns this waste and then uses it to generate heat and electricity for its citizens. With Norway, it has an agreement of returning the ashes from the burnt waste, which, then, just dumps it in landfills. Sweden, however, feels that Norway is not the ideal partner when it comes to an import and export programme involving trash.

Some Other Options

Norway is presently looking at countries such as Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, or countries from the Baltic region. The reason for this is the significant presence of landfills in these countries, which suggests that they have more waste than they can deal with. Sweden says that these countries don’t have any plants to incinerate or recycle the waste and they need a solution for the same. It obviously feels that it can come in and play a major role in that regard. In fact, England, one of Sweden’s prominent waste trading partners, faces its own issues with recycling and using waste.

Can India be Compared to Sweden in this Regard?

At the very face of it, it is perhaps not judicious to compare a country as huge as India (3,287,590 sq km in area and 1.2 billion in population) with a country as small as Sweden (450,295 sq. km in area and a population of around 9.8 million) as far as waste management is concerned. However, the way Sweden is known to innovate is indeed amazing and worthy of learning from. There are plenty of well-known companies from Sweden but no one really knows the way they are able to manage their energy requirements through unconventional sources as often as is possible. This allows them to be environmentally responsible as well by reducing the extent to which they may be dependent on oil as a fuel.

Waste Management Facilities at Sweden

There are around 242 biogas plants in Sweden; 135 of these use municipal waste water or sludge, and five of them use industrial waste, which is often just waste water. Around 21 of these plants employ co-fermentation of various kinds of waste such as household waste. Thanks to its experience, Sweden is also able to ferment biogas using a proper mixture of substrates.

Using Biogas

Sweden has almost 50 installations where it can upgrade biogas to natural gas. This is then used in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) for cars and vehicles, and comes in handy in cooking as well. It also converts 53% of its municipal solid waste (MSW) into energy. Before landfills were banned in Sweden only 1% of this amount was deposited in those landfills. In fact, from 2013 onwards, around 97,000 cars in Sweden now use biogas as fuel instead of diesel and biogas. About 62% of this comes from bio-methane.

What Can India Learn and Do, or Implement?    

India presents a sharp contrast to Sweden. The authorities here seem to love landfills so that the land could be sold at good prices for them to earn profits. It is almost as if it is like mafia. There is also a habit of wasting running water, which is akin to destruction. This is the reason why the Indian Government has to come up with programmes such as Clean Yamuna and Clean Ganga. India also wastes its MSW, something that you would see if you happened to visit any railway track in the country.

India has significant potential in terms of generating excreta-related waste from humans and animals, and then use it to create Gobar Banks just the way Gujarat has done. The government also needs to incentivize solar and biogas usage the same way it does with oil and gas. There needs to be a proper policy vision as part of which things such as open defecation are criminalized – at least in the Smart Cities – and create community collection centres for using all kinds of biodegradable waste and converting them to energy.


Related Links:

Water Management and Waste Management

Need for Waste Paper Recycling in India: How Can It Be Done?

Benefits of Solid Waste Recycling