Sweden is far ahead of the UK when it comes to recycling. What can we learn from them?

Sweden recycles 99% of its waste for reuse.
The UK manages 45% with the rest going to landfill, or burned.
Our target for 2020 was 50% and we failed, so why are we so far behind the Swedish recycling revolution?

Swedish Plastic Recycling

Sweden achieved these figures by installing a dedicated recycling program that requires its citizens to play an active role. They have a can and bottle deposit system in place since 1984, and for plastic bottles since 1994. Each year they recycle 1.8 BILLION bottles and cans.

In 2016 there were 212,500 tonnes of plastic on the market in Sweden, with approximately half of this being from recycled material.

In Sweden, waste is dealt with by the household. This is to maximise what can be recycled and if it cannot, it is sent to one of Sweden’s 32 Energy from Waste (EfW) plants to be incinerated, with the energy produced in these plants is used to heat homes.

Swedish textiles

Sweden operates a discount policy for returning old items, and they are also working on new materials which are less damaging to the environment. They are, however, deficient in textile recycling, and as of 2013, there was no dedicated textile recycling scheme in place.

In 2014 Swedish TV reported that just 20% of textiles are recycled. It may take up to 20 years to properly implement.

Sweden’s Fast Fashion Giant

Could Sweden’s Fast Fashion Brand giant have a negative influence over policy?

The UK remains behind Sweden in all aspects of recycling with much the same discussion in 2020 as in 2010.

Sweden understood that a large part of their success would be encouraging (or ‘nudging’ as they call it) the general public into action. Incentive-based action is one thing, but people need the services to help them do the right thing.

The UK needs a radical shake-up of its recycling policy, infrastructure and also its appetite to change. Textiles are responsible for OVER 200 tonnes of waste a year with some non-degrading materials lying for 200 years, yet there are no real discussions on how to deal with this.

Fast fashion is expanding and its clothes waste is expanding with it. 

The general public in the UK need a serious nudging if we are to catch up with the Swedish recycling revolution.

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