The wide world of recycling

The wide world of recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

A Northern European country is having an unexpected problem from its high recycling rate, and a Southeast Asian country's recycling industry would recover more plastic bottles — if the government would let them.

Sweden has become so good at recycling that it doesn't have enough trash left to power its waste-to-energy operations, putting the country in the odd situation of having to import waste, according to a report from Public Radio International.

The Scandinavian country only landfills 4 percent of its household waste, with the rest going to either recycling or into waste-to-energy plants, according to the report. Because of Sweden's success in recycling, there is not enough burnable trash to power its incinerators, which Sweden relies on for much of its heating needs. In response to the situation, the country will begin importing 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries in Europe as feedstock for its power plants. The majority of the waste will come from neighboring Norway where it's less expensive to export the waste than burn it domestically.

"This is not a long-term solution really, because we need to be better to reuse and recycle, but in the short perspective, I think it's quite a good solution," Catarina Ostlund, senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, told PRI.

Thailand could be recycling more plastic bottles, but is prevented from doing so by public health regulations, according to the Bangkok Post. The article quotes Veera Akaraputhiporn, a vice-chairman of the Thailand Institute of Packaging and Recycling Management for Sustainable Environment, saying that the country's Food and Drug Administration bars the use of recycled materials such as plastic resin from being used to make food and drink containers, stunting an industry that has grown dramatically elsewhere.

"The FDA regulations are going against the global trend and need to be changed," he told the paper.

According to the article, none of the bottled water sold in Thai supermarkets is packaged in recycled plastic, and the recycling rate for the containers in the Southeast Asian country is around 30 to 40 percent. However, glass and aluminum containers have recycling rates of 70 and 90 percent, respectively. Because of the regulations, the needed technology to increase the recycling of plastics in the country isn't present, the paper quotes Akaraputhiporn as saying.

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