The responsibilities of municipalities

Under the Swedish Environmental Code, each municipality is responsible for ensuring that household waste within the municipality is transported and recycled or disposed of. The term household waste refers to waste that comes from households and equivalent waste from businesses such as restaurants, shops, offices, etc.

Every municipality is required by law to have its own waste and sanitation ordinance which consists of a waste plan and regulations for waste management. Municipalities can collaborate and draw up common regional waste plans.

The municipalities are working at increasing rates to promote the prevention and reuse of waste. Preparation for reuse of household waste is also part of the municipal responsibility. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's new regulations and guidance on municipal waste plans for the prevention and management of waste went into force on 1 May 20174. With the new rules, even more emphasis is placed on preventing waste. Collaboration within the municipality and with other stakeholders is important in the process of developing the plan. The municipalities also have a duty to inform about waste management and the content of the waste plans.

The responsibility of producers

Sweden has producer responsibility for:

  • recovered paper
  • packaging
  • waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
  • tyres
  • cars
  • batteries
  • Pharmaceuticals.

Producers are responsible for collecting and disposing of end-of-life products. This means that there must be suitable collection systems and treatment methods for recycling.

Producer responsibility is also intended to encourage producers to develop products that are more economic with resources, easier to recycle and do not contain substances which are harmful to the environment.

In their information about waste, the municipalities are also obliged to inform about the responsibility of producers. This is done, inter alia, through the national waste portal, which is a collaboration between Avfall Sverige and several other actors.

The responsibility of households

Households are responsible for separating and depositing waste at available collection points. They must also follow the municipality's rules for waste management.

The responsibility of businesses

Businesses are responsible for disposing of nonhousehold waste and waste that is not covered by producer responsibility.

Organisation of municipal responsibility

The municipalities must choose themselves how waste management is organised. Local government autonomy is part of the Swedish Constitution. There are several organisational structures available:

  • self-administration
  • municipal enterprise, owned independently or jointly with other municipalities
  • joint board
  • municipal association.

The waste sector has a long history of collaboration between municipalities. As the sector has faced greater and greater demands, the collaborations have grown in scope and have undergone development and expansion.

Collaboration between municipalities is a natural operational structure, providing the greatest possible environmental and social benefit, managing waste cost effectively and ensuring the requisite competencies are in place. Municipalities can also cooperate in relation to specific issues, such as joint procurement.

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