It will be catastrophic if we keep wasting rubbish like plastic bottles, glass, electronic devices, furniture, clothes, food, etc. It's known that nowadays, we are eating microplastics as plastic is everywhere, the sea, the forest, the mountains, and even the desert.
To combat climate change, we need to change production and consumption, and one way of doing it is through circular solutions. Sweden has been characterized as a sustainable country and concerned about the environment. They have shown relevant progress and innovative development to recycle as much as possible.
In 2018, the Swedish government appointed a delegation (Delegationen för cirkulär ekonomi) to turn the whole country into a circular economy with the principal goal of zero waste of their resources, using them multiple times and only using materials that are not bad for the environment. To be able to move forward to a circular economy and leave behind the lineal economy as we know it today gives importance to changing the attitude and behaviour, thinking of new things and instead making use of what already exists. Different industries in Sweden have developed technology to make way for recycling, avoiding throwing waste and thus combatting climate change.
Panta is the Swedish word which expresses the can and bottle recycling system that gives money back for every single can and bottle. In 1984 Returpack AB company, using its Pantamera brand started to operate the only approved return system for deposit beverage containers.
According to The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 86% of PET bottles and 87% of aluminium cans in the deposit system were recycled in 2020 – the national target is 90% for both.
Clothing brand H&M has the world's first "Loopop" recycling system. It uses the only garment recycling machine, developed in conjunction with the non-profit H&M Foundation and the Hong Kong Textile and Garment Research Institute (HKRITA). Through 8 steps: cleaning, shredding, filtering, carding, drawing, spinning, twisting and knitting, they give life to a new garment using a used one. It is located in Drottninggatan 56 Stockholm. Loopop's goal is to remember that clothing is a resource. No garment is too broken or old to be recycled, and no clothing should end up in the trash; That is why recycling is of the utmost importance for circular fashion to work so that new garments can be created as a result of those returned and recycled by people.
In the first quarter of 2020, Coca-Cola in Sweden switched its entire portfolio from locally produced PET to 100% recycled plastic, including the brands Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite and Bonaqua, to become the first country worldwide to do so. Doing this eliminates the use of 3,500 tons of virgin plastic each year.
At Volvo, they are looking at how to dismantle cars to create new products. The automobile industry has to be more sustainable when making automobiles since they use them. For example, in the European Union, the automotive sector consumes 10 per cent of all plastic, but only 5 per cent is recycled. Road transport accounts for 9 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and must be reduced.
The entire construction sector has a tremendous environmental and climate impact as a lot of materials are used, and large amounts of waste are generated; that is why the construction area tries to contribute to the transition towards a circular economy:
Existing materials should be seen as raw materials and resources that can be reused or recycled during demolition or reconstruction.
Create dismantling services instead of demolition workers and more artisans.
Take advantage of existing buildings through renovations and extensions.
Focus on the use of buildings and opportunities to share areas.
New services to rent furniture instead of buying and owning it.
Financial instruments so that recycling is also economically attractive.
At people's houses, they have to do their duties for recycling garbage: separate the waste into different trash cans or bags, then take the trash to the recycling stations located in each residential area. Rubbish is divided by type of waste: Organic, metal, batteries, coloured glass, transparent glass, hard plastic, soft plastic, cardboard, paper, newspapers and magazines, electrical appliances, and light bulbs.
Apartment buildings have recycling rooms where people can recycle their cardboard and paper; some have shelves where people can leave books and magazines for someone else to read. There is also a glass recycling room, a hard plastic recycling room (plastic and metal), a metal recycling room (cans), a waste room (bulky trash, electronics, batteries, fluorescent lamps, reuse items people don't longer need like teddies, clothes, shoes, etc.). Used televisions or damaged furniture are taken to recycling centres in the suburbs.
The garbage collection system has evolved to a technology that uses compressed air invented by Envac Company. Envac was founded in 1953 in Sweden with the concept: "If we can vacuum the dust from every corner of the hospital in one system, why can't we do the same thing with the waste?." Envac has 34 offices in 20 countries and 1,000 installations worldwide; they design, develop and supply pneumatic waste collection systems for intelligent and sustainable cities, hospitals and airports to contribute to the United Nations' global goals for sustainable development. Specifically with goal #11: Sustainable cities and communities, making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and goal #13: Climate action, take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
There are more than 30 plants dotted around the country to burn in low-carbon incinerators and transform them into climate-friendly biogas fuel. These plants generate both electricity and hot water for heating the towns in winter.
Food waste becomes climate-friendly biogas fuel, biomethane and biofertilizer. Biogas and biomethane are used as fuel for the bus or cars.
In Sweden, second-hand stores are widespread. People can find furniture (dining rooms, dressers, bookcases, living rooms, individual armchairs, desks, coffee tables, etc.), dishes, food utensils, books, blue rays, DVDs, CDs, toys, mirrors, lamps, speakers, computers, monitors, keyboards, printers, coffee machines, sewing machines, bicycles, clothes and endless other items for an affordable price and to give objects a second user without the need to throw them away.
People are essential to moving a country forward into a circular economy since the foundations to care for the planet are created from education, behaviour and awareness of the environment. It is from home where children and adults observe and understand the reason for recycling and reusing. If we want a green future, we have to act, and everyone does their bit.
Sweden is an innovative country worried about the environment and sustainability. If you are an engineer who likes to innovate and see beyond, then at Iknal Semikan, we can guide you to be part of the change.