Swedish waste management

Preventing the creation of waste is the first step in the waste hierarchy. It is the priority of both Swedish and European waste legislation.

The waste hierarchy priority is:

  • waste prevention
  • reuse
  • material recycling and biological treatment
  • other recycling, e.g. energy recovery
  • disposal.

Exceptions to this hierarchy may be necessary for technical, financial or environmental reasons. According to the definition in the Swedish Environmental Code, waste is any matter or object that the bearer disposes of, intends to dispose of, or is obligated to dispose of.

There are different methods for treating waste:

  • material recycling
  • biological treatment
  • energy recovery
  • landfill.

Hazardous waste can be treated using one or more of these methods, depending on its properties.

Recycling means that the waste will be used as replacement for another material. Preparation for reuse is also a recovery operation. According to the definition, it means inspecting, cleaning or repairing any item that is waste so it can be reused without further treatment.

Material recycling reduces environmental impact by saving both energy and natural resources. Biological treatment closes the ecocycle and returns nutrients to the soil. The waste is treated through anaerobic digestion (treatment without access to oxygen) or composting (treatment with access to oxygen, which is known as aerobic treatment). Anaerobic digestion produces digestate and biogas, which can be used as vehicle fuel. Compost is a soil conditioner which can be used in gardens, parks and landscaping.

Energy recovery is a method ideally suited for waste which cannot be recycled in any other way. Recovering energy from waste provides both district heating and electricity.

Landfill is a treatment method for waste that cannot or should not be recycled. Landfill entails waste being stored in a manner that is safe in the long-term. Sending organic or combustible waste to landfill is prohibited.

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