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The hot topic being picked up recently by both news agencies and bloggers worldwide is that Sweden, a recycling-rich and squeaky clean Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million is facing a not so common dilemma: It has run out of waste! With landfills turning empty, Sweden has been importing trash from Norway.

Sweden is in the forefront for recycling. Each Swede produces just over 500kg or half a ton of household waste annually. A vast majority of this can be recovered or reused. Only four per cent of all waste generated reaches the landfill. Just over two million tons of residential waste is treated by “waste to energy” in Swedish plants every year. A similar quantity of waste from industries is incinerated as well.

Public Radio International has reported that burning garbage in the incinerators generates 20% of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings. It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes. The population’s recycling habits have in fact created a bit of a problem for the country. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the country has more capacity than the actual production of waste that is usable for incineration. With shortage of garbage as fuel, Sweden is now looking at garbage from countries like Italy, Romania or Bulgaria where there is not much recycling done.

Sweden started putting effective systems in place from 1990s and enforced policy changes to engage multiple stake holders. Avfall Sverige – Swedish Waste Management has had a great influence on the development through joint research and exchange of experience between plants. The government has initiated incentives for companies to produce less waste from products and product packaging. Landfilling of organic waste is forbidden in Sweden. The waste sector has been reducing greenhouse gas emission which is calculated to fall by 76% during 1990-2020. With India and other Asian countries facing acute waste management problems, there are lessons to be learnt from this small nation.

Back home, India’s global city Bangalore has been getting global attention for its very complicated garbage woes. The Commissioner of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is assuring that the civic body is introducing a new total garbage management system. Meanwhile, Mysore City Corporation (MCC) and Eskilstuna Energy and Environment (EEE), Sweden has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a detailed planning report for managing the increasing waste ( 280 metric tonnes per day expected to be generated by 2015) and converting it into biogas. As per the pre-feasibility study undertaken by EEE, from the 280 MTD of waste, it is possible to generate 5.2 million cubic metres of methane or an equivalent of 5.2 million litres of petroleum.

The City could use it for supplying LPG to households by creating a gas grid or if it chooses electricity, a power grid could be created to supply power to localities in the city. But the points which need to be considered while formulating project of this kind are the difference in population between the counties, life styles and climate.

Clean India Show 2012 in Bangalore will have a special seminar session on waste management and recycling with both the Urban bodies and waste recycling companies discussing the successful experiments and technologies. There are multiple issues faced by the bigger Municipal Corporations and small councils and here is an opportunity to exchange experiences and share knowledge.


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