Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday, January 29th, 2007:
Recycling: Sweden vs England

What I think:

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.

In Sweden:
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?

A newer addition is the bin for soft plastic: This is for your plastic carrier bags, your bacon packaging, and the packaging of the shampoo samples you steal from hotels.

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.

In England:

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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Blogger Shark99 said...

Yes, what I like about Sweden is the brilliant "pant" system which gives you money for recycling your bottles and cans. I used to make enough to buy candy and comics as a kid just by picking up stuff from the street.

11:06 pm  
Blogger Mark Base said...

I like pants too.

11:12 pm  
Blogger Jay said...

What a fascinating overview. Where I am, the composting thing is strictly enforced, so every public place now has 39 different bins and sorting your garbage takes about a third of your life to do properly!

11:50 am  
Blogger Soup said...

It's because that's all too complicated for we brits!! :)

2:13 pm  
Blogger Carol said...

I am from the USA and our idea of recycling is: We talk about it, we put up the little blue or green recycle bins, and no one uses them! We like to keep it simple her, we talk the talk but don't walk the walk! I love your wit and humor and your writing is entertaining as well.

5:56 pm  
Blogger Omni said...

I'm in SoCal, and we have one big can for all our recyclables... but we also have Boy Scouts who pick up specific kinds of recyclables to compensate for it. lol

2:18 am  
Blogger Solomon said...

Recycling in the UK is getting better, but it's still not all the way there yet. Local councils are being encouraged more to help people recycle, but there's always the barrier of people not being bothered. Because of course, watching the latest episode of Coronation Street is way more important that doing your bit to save the planet.


1:14 pm  
Blogger Mark Base said...

I don't like sarcasm.


1:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the UK, in a city which recycles in much the same way as Sweden. We have different collection days and separate bins and I'd say that every resident recycles.

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spend a good deal of time sorting out my recycling and not everyone in the UK is a bad soap (Coronation St and likewise) gimp!

3:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What surprises me is that they won't pay you a dime for cans or bottles around here, which leads to a lot of empty cans and bottles everywhere. At least where I'm at.

And where I am I've seen "recycling" boxes that are blue...not green...but the purpose is pretty much the same.
However, those are meant for paper I believe...

5:42 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Mark. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Love your humor and observations about recycling, although I don't think you are entirely fair to my British friends! ;)

I actually more than I'd like to about Sweden's quite complex waste management and recycling system — the many ordinances, Repa, Plastkretsen, Svensk Kartongåtervinning, Svensk Glasåtervinning, Metallkretsen, and Returwell and all that — because I used to do an annual profile of it (and Norway's, Finland's, France's, Greece's, Belgium's, Luxembourg's, the Netherlands', Spain's, Portugal's and those of all the LAC nations)for an international publication. In a way I am glad to be working more on LAC now, because we’re still working on the recycling basics…

Best Regards,
Keith R

8:58 pm  
Blogger Tug said...

I'm so confused. We've got 2 big green recycling bins outside, but they're not marked. Seriously, is it a guessing game, or free for all.

Only you could make me laugh at a recycling post. Seriously.

2:57 am  
Blogger RW said...

Mark what a huge pain in the butt lol

12:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's even worse in Japan. Not only is recycling compulsory, but you are required to separate everything into different colored bags (which you must purchase yourself): red for cans, green for glass, blue for "non-combustible" rubbish, white for paper, yellow for plastic, and brown for kitchen garbage. Each color/bag must be put on on a certain day of the week and if you get caught putting your red bag out on yellow bag day then you might get dirty looks from your neighbors. For bigger items such as old TVs and the like you are supposed to make an appointment and pay a fee to have it collected by the city. Because this is extremely inconvenient, most people opt for the get-rid-of-it-secretly-in-the-middle-of-the-night" method, which means that all empty lots and fields are strewn with discarded furniture, TVs, body bags, etc.

In some parts of the US they employ a method similar to the UK method. You simply throw everything apart from glass into one big big and put the glass (colored and clear) into separate bins.

1:22 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

AAARGH! UK recycling bins. Our local council have recently introduced recycling bins and quite frankly the system is a big pile of crap. We have a two bin, one box system. Glass goes into the box, but it's tiny, about the size of one of those plastic boxes supermarkets display fruit in. Then there is a green bin for garden waste - it is huge and would take anyone who doesn't have the benefit of 50 acres the best part of a year to fill. This is of no use to me anyway, I already compost garden waste. Everything else goes into a black wheely bin, which is now only emptied once a fortnight. Guess what, everyone in the neighbourhood has bags of rubbish stacked up in their gardens.

10:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i lived in the UK (3 years ago), we didn't have any kind of recycling bins at home. My husband and i would collect our glass, plastic, paper etc and drive to a supermarket carpark that had recycle bins. No wonder people don't bother, it's too much of an inconvenience! Now i live in Australia, we have a regular rubbish bin that only ever has two bags in there at the most, a recycle bin that is for everything (paper, plastic, glass etc) and we have our own compost bin in the garden.

11:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Wisconsin we do very well with recycling in most areas. I have a trash cart and two recycling bins,

paper products - white paper and cardbard

other reyclables - glass, hard plastic, tin and aluminum cans

They're all picked up on the same day. I put my kitchen scraps in my garden.

What I don't get is some things aren't recyclable. For example: plastic water bottle lids, some lids on tin cans, cardboard holders for soda. Why not????

6:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Arkansas, USA we do not take all of our trash to hte land fill. We throw it out on the highway and dump it in the lakes.
Sad Sam

12:52 am  
Blogger sirop said...

In Canada we throw everything in one recycling-bin crush it together and bring it to a little recycling plant, where highschool drop-outs sort what looks safe to touch,(not much!) and the rest is trucked Up-north, into the great outdoors, where bears continue the work for room and board! They have to make a living to!

5:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say there are still a lot of weaknesses in the UK system. At least in London boroughs, they do not deal with compost, most plastics except bottles, and with the corporate recycling (which does have to be split by category) if there is more than 10% 'contamination' it has to go to landfill.

I'd imagine it's the same with domestic, so it wouldn't surprise me that much if the recycling in the photo you showed did end up on a land-fill site

4:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Linda and interested in buying some recycling paper (or call wasted paper or second hand paper) from Sweden. Could you please recommend some companies which engage in this business area?
My contact

3:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Linda and interested in buying some recycling paper (or call wasted paper or second hand paper) from Sweden. Could you please recommend some companies which engage in this business area?
My conatct

3:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having recently lived in Lund and now living in Malmo I am surprised at the lack of continuity in the collection of recyclable stuff. In Lund large wheelie bins were provided at the house, in Malmo we have to shove it in a cupboard until I can find the inclination to take it to the nearest collection of skips or bins.
Having said all that the bin men in Sweden do return the empty rubbish bin to the house unlike in the UK where you have to leave it at the edge of the drive in case the bin men have an accident on an empty, perfectly smooth tarmac drive!
We did have a good, fortnightly, recycling collection in Lancashire and all the neighbours took part. It was always surprised by the number of bottles some of the neighbours got through!

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have good information, but the picture of the "English way of recycling" is bad news - and not a fair example. It's mixed compost/rubbish and recyclables, and likely that bin will not be picked up or if it is, it will go to landfill...Doesn't the UK do a better job than that? But the UK is still behind most of Europe. The way Sweden does it, including their container deposit-refund program, is superior to most places. On the other hand, single bin recycling = contamination and has its drawbacks. It might be "more trouble", but sooner or later our children will pay the price for our laziness and the pollution we've created.

8:56 pm  
Blogger hamsi said...

appriciated post i love your blog
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5:19 am  

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