Why should we care about this issue
In terms of its resource efficiency and environmental impact, waste management in Sweden has greatly improved over the last ten years.
a) Why should we care about this theme?
In terms of its resource efficiency and environmental impact, waste management in Sweden has greatly improved over the last ten years. This is the outcome of a number of powerful policy instruments, including producer responsibility and restrictions on landfilling, and landfill taxes.
The state and impacts
Recovery and material recycling has increased since producer responsibility for packaging was introduced in 1994.
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b) What are the state (S) and impacts (I) related to this theme, including impacts on the natural environment and human health/human well-being, both at national level as well as in transboundary terms?
The polluter-pays principle (PPP) is one of the cornerstones in financing environmental measures and protection in Sweden.
In Sweden there is producer responsibility for:
- cars/end of life vehicles (ELV)
- waste electrical and electronic equipment ( WEEE)
- certain drinking containers
- light bulbs and certain light fittings
Recovery and material recycling has increased since producer responsibility for packaging was introduced in 1994. There is also a trend towards less packaging per kilo sold product.
The national target is that 75 % of the paper put on the market should be collected and treated in an environmentally sound manner. In 2008, the recycling rate was 89 %.
The recovery rate for scrapped tyres is estimated at 97 %. More than half of the collected tyres were used in the cement industry or thermal power plants. Approximately a third of the material was recycled, or used to replace other raw materials. No tyres were put on landfill.
During 2007, 90 % of the weight of scrapped vehicles was reused or recycled. The producers have thereby reached the target specified in the ordinance. The target is 85 % reuse and recovery by an average weight per vehicle and year.
Waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
All collection of WEEE is to be reported to the EE Register of the Swedish EPA,
Swedish producers put a total of 284 000 tonnes of electrical and electronic products on the market and collected 150 000 tonnes of WEEE during 2008, according to their reports to the EE Register. More than 99 % of the collected WEEE was recovered in Sweden.
The landfilling of industrial waste is decreasing and the amounts have been more than halved compared to 1994. The landfilling of household waste was decreased by almost 1.2 million from 1994 to 2006. The important policy instruments for this development are described at the EPA website,
During 2008, about 600 000 tonnes of municipal waste (household and similar wastes) were biologically treated, which is an increase by 6.4 % compared to 2007. Biological treatment accounts for 12.6 % of the total quantity of treated household waste. A total of 64.5 kg of food waste and green waste per person was biologically treated in 2008.
In 2008, there were 31 facilities for composting of household waste and 16 facilities for digestion. The main part of the waste treated in the facilities for digestion consists of industrial waste.
How waste is collected in Sweden
The fastest-growing collection method for household waste is for households to drop off bulky waste and hazardous waste at one of the municipality recycling centres. There are about 650 manned recycling centres in the country. All over the country there are also approximately 5 800 unmanned recycling stations for packaging and paper, which constitute the producers' system for recycling.
The amount of waste increases
The environmental impact from waste management in Sweden has decreased over the last 15 years. Less waste is going into landfills, while more is being recycled, biologically treated, or incinerated. But the waste amounts are still increasing. The environmental impact of the waste we generate could be reduced further by waste prevention. Our focus the coming years must be on reducing the hazardous properties and the volume of our waste.
The key drivers and pressures
The main driving force for generation of household waste in Sweden has been the growing economy.
c) What are the related key drivers (D) and pressures (P) at national level?
The main driving force for generation of household waste in Sweden has been the growing economy. There is a close connection between the economic situation and consumption, and between consumption and waste quantities.
During 2006, some 124 million tonnes of waste were generated in Sweden. The largest categories of waste were mineral waste at 70 million tonnes (including 62 million tonnes of mining waste). The volume of waste generated by Sweden's households was around 5 million tonnes, or 560 kg per capita.
The 2020 outlook
The aim that is probably most difficult to achieve is to stop the increase in total quantity of waste.
d) What is the 2020 outlook (date flexible) for the topic in question and how will this affect possible impacts on the natural environment and human health/well-being?
What is the 2020 outlook?
Sweden's environmental policy is based on environmental quality objectives and interim targets, one of which concerns waste and is divided into sub-targets for 2010 and 2015. The target is not judged to be achievable even if further vigorous measures are taken. The aim that is probably most difficult to achieve is to stop the increase in total quantity of waste.
Existing and planned responses
A number of instruments have been introduced in order to increase recycling of waste, among them taxes, subsidies, producer responsibility schemes.
e) Which responses (R) have been put in place or are planned at national level for the theme in question?
What is done?
A number of instruments have been introduced in order to increase recycling of waste. Among them are:
- Environmental Quality Objectives adopted by the Swedish Parliament, with interim targets for waste (generation) and resource management (e.g. extraction of natural gravel).
- Deposit-refund systems for beverage containers.
- Producer responsibility for batteries, packaging, paper/newsprint, tyres, cars/ELV, WEEE, light bulbs and certain light fittings.
- Voluntary commitments from producers' organisations to collect and recycle office paper and farm plastics.
- Differentiated fees for municipal waste collection (to stimulate source separation).
- Compulsory sorting of waste: combustible waste should be kept and transported separately; packaging waste and WEEE should be sorted out/handled separately by the consumers and delivered to the collection systems provided by the producers. Municipalities can stipulate further sorting.
- Landfill tax.
- Tax on household waste to incineration.
- Landfill bans for combustible and organic waste.
- Subsidies for biogas plants and GHG reduction.
- Every municipality must develop municipal/regional waste management plans, including all waste streams and measures for waste prevention.
Waste prevention programme
Waste prevention efforts have recently been initiated on a national level. During 2010, the Swedish EPA will make a pre-study to identify
- the waste stream with the largest environmental impact, regarding climate and content of hazardous substances
- the most important actors for communication
- suitable national targets for waste prevention.
The results of that study will be a foundation for the coming waste prevention programme. The programme will be prepared in cooperation with stakeholders and with knowledge from the Swedish waste research programme ‘Towards a sustainable waste management'.
National waste management plan
The Swedish EPA is working on a new national waste management plan, which is expected to be finalised in 2011. The new plan will, to a larger extent than the former one, focus on waste from economic activities, such as construction and demolition waste. Furthermore, priority will be given to measures for prevention of waste.
A crucial part of this work will be to involve relevant stakeholders and authorities in order to find the best acceptable measures.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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