Monday, January 29th, 2007:
Recycling: Sweden vs England
In December '05, I wrote a bit about recycling in Sweden. Now, after a recent visit to London, where I did some extensive research, I'd like to illustrate the differences in attitude between Sweden and England with regards to this most important topic.
Most buildings have a sort of shed which houses large bins into which you dump your different recyclable materials. Above each of these bins is a helpful sign indicating what should go where.
The photos that follow show the bins in my building's rubbish (US/CAN: garbage) shed.
First up, we have the cardboard and printed paper bins: Papper is Swedish for paper, but in this context, it's mainly meant as packing material, which includes cardboard. This is where you put your empty cardboard beer crates that you bought on the ferry, your IKEA furniture boxes, and if you're really an eco-warrior, your empty Marlboro packs.
Tidningar is the Swedish word covering both newspapers and magazines. But this bin applies for any printed paper you might want to throw away, like parking tickets and bills that you don't want to pay, as well as the threatening letters that always seem to follow. I've found that it's also good for court summonses as well, but that's another story.
Then there are the bins for your glass waste.This is separated into clear and coloured glass. I thought Apartheid was over, but it appears that segregation is still rife in the world of glass recycling: This is where you put all glass things, including those flimsy wine glasses that you break while doing the washing up, and the remnants of that blue candlestick that your ex threw at you.
Next, we have plastics and metals: The plastics bin is actually for hard plastic only; things like smashed CD's and empty bottles of shampoo or black hair dye (from l'Oréal - because you're worth it).
Metal is for...well, metal. This includes empty cat food tins, foil, and the beer cans you get off the ferry. The cans of beer you buy in the alcohol shop are returnable to supermarkets, where you put them in a machine and get a receipt that you can bring to the checkout to get your deposit back. Cool, eh?
That brings us to the remaining household rubbish: Since even your food sraps are accounted for (there's a separate little shed for these in my building), I can't think of too much else that you can put in there, besides perhaps cat poo and your landlord's dismembered body (I bought my place so I don't have to deal with that anymore).
That about covers most of Sweden's recycling.
Here's a photo I took during my extensive research in London: The English way of recycling is obviously much more efficient: they simply stick everything in one bin. None of this messing around, separating their rubbish, hauling it all out in different bags. Who has time for that nonsense?
You know, a lot of time, energy, and space could be saved in this country if Swedes followed the great English example. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.
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