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Unlike Sweden which recycles more than 99% of its waste, Ukraine is suffering from rubbish

Unlike Sweden which recycles more than 99% of its waste, Ukraine is suffering from rubbish


02.04.2020 (№ LDaily #10)

Unlike Sweden which recycles more than 99% of its waste, Ukraine is suffering from rubbish

Only recently, people around the world began to realize that used things accumulated in landfills are not stored there for free. Those who drink dirty water, breathe dirty air suffer from that. People have to see an unpleasant sight and beware of pollution of the surrounding areas… However, this problem can be turned into money, if you set such a goal.

You would not buy packaging of “gold” paper towels or disposable plates without the need, if the cost of your purchases included the costs of recycling rubbish and waste, as well as the real cost of wood, taking into account the benefits which a person would receive from living wood. If one purchases toilet paper made from primary (wood) bleached pulp, which is washed down in the sewage – they waste about 27000 trees all over the world only in a day, if converted into raw materials.

Rubbish is an expensive pleasure also in a different way: without recycling, we send to the landfills not only cellulose and plastic (which are also not cheap), but also non-ferrous metals, even platinum and gold.

However, the solution has been found. The Swedes can truly be considered successful in recycling. Today, more than 99% of the country’s own waste is recycled in Sweden, and at the same time, almost 700 thousand tons of rubbish from other countries are imported. You can see the system of waste recycling in Stockholm by the examples.

How it all began

It all started in the 1970s. Former Sweden, a country with a harsh climate and complete dependence on natural gas supplies, has decided to change the energy situation. Scientists and politicians have determined that every citizen “produces” 1-1.5 kg of rubbish per day. At the same time, it was estimated that 4 tons of household waste compensate the use of one ton of oil. A simple logic led the Swedes to the only right solution: the country was seriously engaged in recycling. 

Until 1975, the Swedes disposed only of 38% of rubbish. New program activities have helped Sweden to achieve significant progress in recycling. However, nowadays, the Swedes are not fully satisfied with the results of recycling and continue to introduce innovations in this area.

Benefit from rubbish

At some point, waste sorting in Sweden has reached an incredible scale. Thanks to the introduction of innovations, there is almost no landfills in the country, and the waste has become either recycled for fuel or reused. The authorities carry out constant explanatory work, so they have achieved a high level of public awareness.

Most people in the country know that it is possible to make a new plastic from the used one for seven times. Only then, it will go to a power station for incineration. So, recycled plastic will benefit in the form of electricity. 

What manufacturers and ordinary citizens do

Each family owns six or seven buckets for different rubbish — plastic, paper, glass, cardboard, metal and other things. Another bucket is designed for waste which cannot be recycled. Even a small child from Stockholm will not throw a candy wrapper into the wrong container. Educational programs begin with kindergartens. Children learn how to sort rubbish correctly. Here are fines for wrong sorting in the country.  

Household items such as TVs, sofas, building materials are taken to special stations. There, they are dismantled for valuable components further bought by the relevant manufacturers of goods. They get ready to run into the new production cycle of raw materials. Objects are also cleaned of paint, acids and other hazardous substances which subsequently go to a special plant for recycling household chemicals. By the way, such stations in Sweden are completely free, and rubbish collection points are located within walking distance — one point per 10000-15000 inhabitants.

Caring for people

Glass products are also categorized. Coloured glass is sent to one container, and transparent glass — to another. Plastic bottles and metal cans can be delivered to reception points and get paid for them. As in many European countries, the price of a drink usually includes the cost of the package, but you can return it if you put that bottle into a special machine in the store. Such a system is common in Europe, but in Sweden, it differs in caring for people: next to the device, there is always a basket for empty bags in which the packaging was brought and also a sink to wash hands, as well as a dryer or a roll of paper towels. Sweden seeks to make separate rubbish collection as comfortable for people as possible. 

New approaches

In Sweden, a new demolition procedure called “deconstruction” was recently introduced. In the case of the demolition of an old building, the machines “bite off” pieces of walls and take them to a special station where they will again become building materials after recycling. So, an old house will turn into a new one. 

Expired medicines in Sweden are also not thrown away but are handed over to the pharmacy. You can also give used syringes and needles.

Transportation of rubbish in the country is carried out using an underground air duct which was launched in 1961. The main part of such a garbage chute is located underground.

In Sweden, they even invented an “ecological” way of burying of the dead. Scientists have suggested the use of the remains of the dead to enrich the soil of forest plantations. By placing the ashes in a special soluble capsule, which is buried at a small depth in the ground, it is possible to get excellent organic fertilizer, which during the first year after the burial serves as an excellent fertilizer for trees.


The shortage of rubbish in Sweden is the only waste-related problem in the country. Only 7% of all rubbish is delivered to landfills, and everything else is burned or recycled. So, thanks to waste, Stockholm is provided with electricity by 45%. Therefore, waste scarcity can be a significant problem for the population, because the Swedes using recycling heat their houses and get electricity. However, neighboring Norway expressed its willingness to help Sweden at one time and supplies 800 thousand tons of rubbish every year.   

The Swedes came up not only with how to reduce the amount of rubbish in the landfills, but also how to minimize the amount of harmful emissions into the atmosphere during the recycling. Thanks to the latest recycling technologies used at waste plants, emissions into the atmosphere do not exceed 1%.  

Ukraine is on the verge of a rubbish catastrophe

Unlike Sweden, Ukraine is suffering from rubbish. Today, from 4 to 7% of the territory of Ukraine is littered with rubbish. This territory can be compared with the area of ​​the Netherlands or Denmark. There are about only 6 thousand official landfills in the country, and by 5 times more illegal ones.

From January 1, 2018, it was planned to introduce rubbish sorting across the country. There are conveyors for sorted waste next to the usual rubbish cans should have appeared in every yard. The law was passed five years ago, but it was planned to be implemented only from the beginning of 2018. 

It was assumed that after the start of waste sorting, waste-recycling plants would begin to receive raw materials and earn a lot of money thereon. Moreover, it is without mentioning the environmental benefits, as the environment would suffer less from landfills.  

However, good intentions actually remained only on paper. It turned out that the law did not specify the order of measures, that the country had to switch to the European waste recycling system. Even despite the established system of fines, a new “sorting life” has not started for ordinary citizens.  

According to experts, the rubbish business in the country is by 90% in the shade and it flourishes at the same time. Landfills are also used in various schemes of illegal earnings, so the “rubbish” mafia is not interested in the transparency.

To solve the problem, the Ukrainian government has adopted a National Waste Management Strategy, according to which the country should get rid of billions of tons of rubbish by 2030. There is the strategy, but no money: about 6 billion UAH is needed for its implementation. 

Recycling enterprises in Ukraine

There are only 25 enterprises in the country in the sorting and recycling of waste. The fact is that there are only 30 rubbish-sorting lines at the landfills among these companies – this is quite disappointing. The permission for such work is provided for the Kyiv waste recycling plant “Energy” which is headed by “Kyivteploenergo” and “Kyivspetstrans” (test site № 5 in the Pidhirtsi village, Obukhiv district, Kyiv region) since August 1, 2018.

The solution to the problem

The problem with rubbish in Ukraine can only be solved by the construction of additional waste recycling plants. However, another problem is that even when the Ukrainians start sorting the rubbish, this will not solve the issue. The fact is that the sorted waste is nowhere to be disposed of, and eventually, it again falls into the total mass of rubbish.

While nobody is doing at least something, landfills in Ukraine continue covering new territories. Ukraine is not ready to learn from the Swedish experience of how to deal with rubbish. However, we do not actually have to invent anything: we only need to get on the “ready-made bike”, not reinvent a new one.  

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