The good example of Sweden in biowaste management


An important reason why Swedish households separate at source of generation is that they wish to contribute to a better environment and an ecocycle‐based society (circular economy). Especially for biowaste, it is important to reduce adverse effects in the form of emissions of methane gas from landfills. The expansion of separate collection of food waste for biological treatment has come about largely as a result of there being a national target for this.

Environmental objectives about biowaste. Several measures have been taken to promote biological treatment, in part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and be able to make use of the plant nutrients contained in food waste. The ban on landfilling organic waste and the targets for increased biological treatment of food waste and for waste from the food industry have been most effective. According to SEPA (2005) the targets were: By 2010 at least 35% of food waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises will be recovered by means of biological treatment. This target refers to food waste separated at source for both home composting and centralized treatment. Furthermore, by 2010 food waste and comparable wastes from food processing plants etc. will be recovered by means of biological treatment. This target relates to waste that is not mixed with other wastes and that is of such a quality as to be suitable, following treatment, for recycling into crop production. In the recent Swedish waste management plan 2012-2017 the plan sets specific goals for food waste, promoting the management of food waste into a priority area to be considered in the future. Specifically by 2018, 50 percent of food waste from households, institutional kitchens, shops and restaurants shall be sorted out and treated biologically and at least 40 percent shall be treated, so that energy will be taken advantage of (SEPA, 2012).

Collection of landfill gas. The Landfill Ordinance requires landfills that receive biodegradable waste to collect landfill gas. The requirements also cover the sampling and measurement of the gas. In addition, the gas has to be treated and utilized. If the gas cannot be used for energy recovery, it has to be flared off. The landfill gas is used for heating, electricity production and vehicle fuel. The landfill gas is flared to some extent. As a result of the decrease in the landfilling of organic waste, the collection of landfill gas has also decreased.

Waste incineration. The requirements for waste incineration are based on a European Directive. The requirements have not brought a need for any major adjustments for Swedish plants as similar requirements already existed in Sweden before the Directive came into force. Energy utilization through the incineration of waste is the most common method used for the treatment of household waste in Sweden. Just under half (47%) of household waste is incinerated. The volume of waste going for incineration has increased in recent years, partly due to the landfilling of combustible and organic waste now being prohibited. Around 2.2 million tones of household waste were incinerated in 2007. Around 2.3 million tons of waste of other types was incinerated in the same plants.

For other Swedish practices concerning waste read here:

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) 2005:

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) 2012: