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Sweden Imports European Garbage To Power the Nation

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the quick-everybody-become-more-wasteful dept.

Earth 165

Hugh Pickens writes "NPR reports that Sweden's program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash. Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. Sweden already brings trash from Norway and hopes to get garbage from Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic countries. Sweden creates energy for around 250,000 homes and powers one-fifth of the district heating system. Its incineration plants offer a look into the future where countries could potentially make money off of their trash instead of dumping. Landfilling of organic materials – a highly inefficient and environmentally degrading system (PDF) — has been forbidden in Sweden since 2005 and emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from landfills has fallen dramatically (PDF). 'I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries,' says Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the country's environmental protection agency. 'They don't have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste.'"

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First Post (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816311)

If only forum spam could be processed into electricity.

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816571)

If only forum spam could be processed into electricity.

Then we ACs will finally get some respect!

Re:First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817399)

Seriously, we ACs get No Respect [amazon.com] .

Bloody socialists (4, Funny)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816319)

Bloody socialists. My garbage is mine to dispose of as I see fit -- after, all I created it through my own private endeavour! To see it wrested from my hands is frankly an assault on my liberty and a chilling curb on garbage creators like me everywhere. By golly, if they take too much of my garbage, I'll be forced to move overseas.

Re:Bloody socialists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816363)

Julian Assange does not agree.

Re:Bloody socialists (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816391)

As opposed to capitalists, who only license you the garbage ...

Re:Bloody socialists (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816485)

All you have to do to understand the true capitalist way you can deal with garbage is go to Napoli in Southern Italy, where the mafia own the garbage business.

Re:Bloody socialists (4, Funny)

jalopezp (2622345) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816619)

Garbage collection in Naples is handled by the municipality afak. Remember that trash issue a few years ago? If the mafia had been in charge of trash, all the trash would have disappeared. No one makes things disappear like the mafia.

Re:Bloody socialists (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816689)

In recent history some mafia groups went into the hazardous chemicals disposals business. They used to have a disturbingly high rate of "accidents" at sea in which they lost their cargo over the side of the boat. That's a much better example of how unregulated organisations deal with waste. Out at sea, every problem can be somebody else's problem!

Re:Bloody socialists (1)

dywolf (2673597) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816987)

Criminal organization breaks law. News at 11.

Also in today's news: A politician lied to get elected. Therefore democracy as a whole is a failure and needs scrapped.

Re:Bloody socialists (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817655)

So criminal organizations should are good and should be nurtured?

Re:Bloody socialists (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818155)

So criminal organizations should are good and should be nurtured?

Well that's why we have elections, isn't it?

Re:Bloody socialists (3, Informative)

Misagon (1135) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816811)

Trash from Napoli is already being incinerated in Sweden. At Värtaverket in Stockholm.

story [www.svt.se] (Swedish).

Re:Bloody socialists (4, Funny)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816437)

Don't worry, this only applies to Eurotrash.

Re:Bloody socialists (4, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816977)

Yes, but where will it stop? After they've taken control of Europe's natural trash resources, they'll turn to Russia, then it will only be a matter of time before they attack us on our own jersey shores.

Re:Bloody socialists (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817309)

But Sweden does not have enough submarines [youtube.com] and all its UFOs are on a mission to Venus!

Re:Bloody socialists (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817397)

That is quite frankly the best joke I've seen or heard in quite a while!

And being on sick leave, I spend a hell of a lot of time watching various comedy show.

It's now been about two minutes since I read your joke, and I am still laughing out loud!

Thank you kind sir. Thank you.

Re:Bloody socialists (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41818241)

Don't worry, this only applies to Eurotrash.

No, Swedes import a lot of trash from Middle East and Africa too. www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGk7w64ska8

Stop all the pain in the ass recycling... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816323)

Just throw your garbage any old place like I used to do.

Haven't read TFA (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816335)

But, how much energy does it take to move that amount of waste, from those countries, to Sweden, sort, process, and extract energy from them compared to, say, the useful energy out from the process that's heating those 250,000 homes (which doesn't seem an awful lot, and I live in the UK which is smaller but has more people in it)?

Surely the transport costs alone would mean it would be better to buy the diesel used to transport that amount of material, then burn that directly?

How is this "green"?

Re:Haven't read TFA (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816407)

But, how much energy does it take to move that amount of ...

It can't be worse than coal because it doesn't take any energy to break it loose from the earth and crush it, and the labor at the small scale is "free" you don't have to pay people to put trash in a trash can (but at higher levels a truck of coal costs about as much to drive as a truck of garbage) Admittedly the energy content per Kg is probably a bit lower so its not going to be as much of a win over coal as you'd guess. But it certainly won't be worse.

The real killer energy cost / green issue is exhaust emissions scrubbing. Not selling electronic devices with lead based solder doesn't mean all durable goods made with lead solder instantly disappeared. Plenty of things in the trash that you wouldn't want to breathe after burning. You'd like to think special bins for plastic and electronics magically means the "food refuse" bin is pristine pure 100% lead and plastic and paint free, but its not, and the required scrubbing just in case is expensive.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816985)

I think everyone is forgetting that none of this crap gets dumped in a landfill...

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

joaommp (685612) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817629)

Portugal talking to Sweden:

- "So, you're producing electricity by incinerating trash? How cute."

I find it very interesting that Sweden is now doing this... Meanwhile in Portugal, this has been done for at least 20 years in thermoelectric powerplants and concrete factories (the so called co-incineration/co-generation).

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41818109)

Well, TFA doesn't say it all. We've been burning trash for electricity and heat for at least 50 years here in Sweden. I grew up just a few miles from the biggest station in the Stockholm area.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817021)

The summary also mentions methane emissions have fallen. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 and is emitted from landfills. Landfills often try to burn the methane (according to the wiki page on methane). But I'm guessing the process will be much more optimized if someone is making money off of it as opposed to someone being directed to burn it to prevent global warming or to explosions. The lowered emissions seem consistent with that.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817179)

Methane emissions have fallen - this implies there's a lot of organic matter in the trash. While incinerating it is faster, I wonder if composting it would be a better long term approach. There are many sources of energy, but organic matter is more valuable as fertilizer. Especially in that it will recover chemicals like phosphorus, of which there's a shortage brewing.

About the cost of transporting it - if a lot of the trash is organic, then they're essentially transporting water, something that becomes evident if you compost.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41818097)

Good point about the organic matter. I live in Sweden and in many places organic matter is now collected separately for biogas production. After separating recycling and organic material there is honestly not a lot left for general garbage, at least it takes me a long time to fill a bag. I don't think I'm alone in this so I can see why importing garbage for burning is necessary.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817653)

Not sure if that with less energy is true actually. Did not bother to RTFA but I know that in Germany this was an issue - the pellets that they produce in trash processing plants tend to produce so much heat that they cannot be used in normal furnaces. This said Germans sort all trash (and mix it many times on the way from produced to landfill/furnace) so maybe these were the more energetic ones (plastic etc). In any case we burn also brown coal and sometimes you need to squeeze water out of it before you burn it. GP concern is not valid anyway as all fuel gets transported and needs some processing which does not make it cheaper but it needs be done anyway.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816415)

The problem is very complex. I am pretty sure the country with the rubbish (Italy, Romania, Bulgaria... ) would pay for the transport and then some.

It would be more effective for those country to build their own garbage burning power plants, but they often find strong opposition (NIMBY syndrome). Opposition usually says it is dangerous for helth due to the fumes, and it makes recicling and reducing garbage production counter productive (as partially shown by sweeden "problem"). So, in country like Italy disposing of garbage is a costly problem and it is not unlikely that the government would be happy to pay.

About the cost of moving oil, well if you import your oil from Saudi, then it is cheaper to import rubbish from Italy. If oil comes from Norway via pipes probably not, but oil i definetely more expansive than garbage

Re:Haven't read TFA (2)

Seeteufel (1736784) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816821)

You don't get it, Romania and Bulgaria do not have a garbage disposal problem (Italy actually has), Sweden has over-capacity in its waste burning plants and thus imports waste to keep them powered.

Re:Haven't read TFA (2)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816849)

If oil comes from Norway via pipes probably not

No pipes for the Swedes! They can get our trash, but oil? NEVER!

Re:Haven't read TFA (4, Interesting)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816875)

[...] So, in country like Italy disposing of garbage is a costly problem and it is not unlikely that the government would be happy to pay.

About the cost of moving oil, well if you import your oil from Saudi, then it is cheaper to import rubbish from Italy. If oil comes from Norway via pipes probably not, but oil i definetely more expansive than garbage

I beg to disagree. Garbage producing countries are paying to get rid of the thing, including transport costs. I do not see the Saudis paying the swedes to get rid of the oil which is staining the inside of the oil wells. In the end the Swedes are only selling a service: how to part morons from their money. Luckily, now there's an economic crisis, so we're starting incinerating plants over here in italy too. [trm.to.it]
Pity is, they're owned and/or controlled by the municipalities, so none of those will use garbage from outside their administrative area: plants are built too small, etc.etc., so as a country the problem will remain.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816951)

About the cost of moving oil, well if you import your oil from Saudi, then it is cheaper to import rubbish from Italy. If oil comes from Norway via pipes probably not, but oil i definetely more expansive than garbage

Not necessarily. It would depend on the differences in energy density between oil and the trash. Granted, its a longer distance, but if the oil is the equivalent of 10 trash piles per costs to transport, the Saudi solution could still be cheaper.

But, I suspect this solves some sort of problem they had so costs like that aren't a concern.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816421)

This gets rid of garbage that would otherwise be sitting in a landfill causing local environmental damage.

Re:Haven't read TFA (2)

i (8254) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816445)

Not necessarily. You have to transport whatever fuel You use. E g the oil from middle east. (By burning diesel...)

Here You could have the fuel in the local district or in a neighbour country. And You have to take care of the trash anyway! *Which in itself costs energi*

Re:Haven't read TFA (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816519)

Okay, so *someone* has to pay to put the fuel into that foreign country in the first place, then pay for the extra bit in the tank required to move it *and* the cargo to its destination.

Whatever way you look at it, you paid to move X amount of rubbish to your country and burn it, where you could have just moved Y amount of oil to your country and burned it instead without any intermediate losses and conversions and it wouldn't have cost any more.

But the *killer* is that you're still burning diesel, just indirectly to move vehicles carrying your fuel (and generating waste heat and pollution) instead of just burning it AS a fuel.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816615)

You have to do something with the garbage anyways. Might as well minimize landfills.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816517)

Even if its not hugely green, as long as its not any worse, I'd rather they burn garbage than store it on ever growing landfils. Maybe thats just me though. :)

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816553)

The reality is as follows: There were people trying to establish wast burning plants all over the nation. Some communities resisted. Then came the recycling revolution and you had so much capacity in your waste plants and so little waste fuel was left. So they decided to import waste to burn it. Still waste burning plants are a deficit business. The problem is theirs: massive overcapacity in waste plants.

Re:Haven't read TFA (3, Interesting)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816577)

Perhaps they are planning on avoiding the use of diesel? Most of the EU's main rail networks have been electrified for years, so if the Swedes are serious about making this environmentally efficient then I suspect they'd be looking at freighting the garbage in bulk on trains using that. As long as you can generate more power from a given train load of garbage that it takes to freight it then you are on to a winner - and that's before you consider the environmental and ecological impact of just dumping it all into landfill.

Re:Haven't read TFA (5, Informative)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816631)

The elecric energy that can be recovered from one tonne of waste (0.5 MWh) is approximately sufficient to transport one tonne of cargo the circumference of the Earth by rail or sea. The distances discussed here are significantly shorter than that.

(In addition, incineration generates about 2 MWh of heat per tonne, but that can only be used for applications like domestic heating, not for transport.)

Re:Haven't read TFA (5, Informative)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816695)

I made a mistake in my calculation. The electric energy is only enough to go half the circumference of the Earth. The conclusion still holds, tough.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817457)

It's better than that. Garbage is used only partly to generate electricity. The heat generated by incinerating garbage is primarily used to heat out homes. Most towns larger than say 20 - 30 000 have a highly efficient pipeline system transporting hot water to heat exchangers in homes and other buildings. All of city of Stockholm and all major cities are well covered - and it makes both economical, environmental and practical sense to be connected. We are also using methane generated at waste water processing plants for the same purpose but true, we are starting to run out of enough waste!

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817589)

(In addition, incineration generates about 2 MWh of heat per tonne, but that can only be used for applications like domestic heating, not for transport.)

It is also very much used for centralized heating. Many towns have far reaching network of pipes supplying houses with hot water for heating.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816639)

This BS episode [youtube.com] is from 2006, but asks the same thing, but with the entertainment value of Penn & Teller to present the case that it is at least a good question.

Re:Haven't read TFA (5, Informative)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816703)

You would be surprised.

Trains can get about 400 ton-miles per galon of diesel.

So if it's 1600 miles to sweden by rail, that means that you're burning 4 gallons of diesel per ton of garbage transported.

4 gallons of diesel is about 32 pounds. So you're getting around 60 pounds of trash for 1 gallon of diesel.

I've seen some figures that peg municipal waste as ~4000 BTU/lb. If you're doing cogen then that's almost all used.

Diesel is probably closer to 16,000 BTU's per pound but even at those ratios, you're getting about 500 pounds diesel equivalent of energy out of 32 pounds of diesel.

That is a highly favorable ratio so no, it does not make transporting the garbage less energy efficent than burning diesel. Not by a long shot.

Also, if you believe in anthropogenic global warming, eliminating garbage by burning it keeps it from producing the much more AGW effecting methane gas.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818331)

The city of Amsterdam has a plant that imports garbage from other countries to create electricity also. Just to back up your point, Amsterdam is busy creating new canals for barge traffic to more efficiently feed the plant from abroad.

http://www.amsterdam.nl/aeb/english [amsterdam.nl]

Seems like a growth industry fueled not by the private sector and the special interest groups, but by governments with an eye on the ball.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

zazzel (98233) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816917)

My city (Germany) burns plastic (and other) waste for energy generation, too. Since our garbage collection system separates recyclable plastic from the start, they just have to collect and compress the yellow bags in front of my door (which happens anyway) - and burn them. Details (in German, just use Google Translate): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCllheizkraftwerk_Bremen [wikipedia.org]

So, only the compressed bags get moved around. Should not be too costly, since there are railways and rivers between Sweden and Romania...

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817479)

You're (so) lucky. I've always (wanted to) live in the city of Germany.

Re:Haven't read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817489)

Ha! You got them. They certainly didn't do any calculations.

People will pay you... (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817709)

Surely the transport costs alone....

People will usually pay you to take their trash :)
No municipality wants a landfill in the neighbourhood, transport by sea is usually cheap.

How is this "green"?

Compared to dumping stuff on landfills this is very much green. Bad stuff doesn't leak into the ground water, and the emissions are filtered pretty good.
I trust the Swedes to do a good job at filtering the emissions.

Re:Haven't read TFA (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818105)

"Surely the transport costs alone would mean it would be better to buy the diesel used to transport that amount of material, then burn that directly?"

They 'import' it, nowhere does it say they 'pay' for it. The trash owner has to pay to get rid of it, the only thing is that companies who make electricity money from taking it can have a lower price than those who have to deal with it in other ways.
I live in a small country in Europe and we have the same problem, because of our heavy recycling, 5 garbage bins (paper, glass, green, a mixed one 'stuff worth something' and one for the rest, there's no enough real trash left to burn for electricity.

Great solution! (3, Interesting)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816337)

Because, of course, it contributes NO greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

When are we going to get serious about NOT actively promoting global warming with every 'solution' we come up with? Sure, incineration reduces methane emissions, but couldn't we either recycle more, (and more efficiently), and/or just consume less?

Our pursuit of 'shiny' is killing us.

You onviously haven't lived in Sweden... (1, Offtopic)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816369)

Swedes, in general, shun new and shiny ... they like minimalistic (even in Stockholm ... well, maybe not Östermalm). Also, you try to get your head around the concept of "lagom."

Re:Great solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816469)

Consuming less is not a sane option. Maybe you're the kind of person who goes around saying: "Oh, if everyone does their part...".

We need smart solutions that enable us to keep consuming, and consume more, indeed. Stop with the pee in the sink nonsense...

Re:Great solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816711)

Sarcasm, right?

Our resources are limited, "recycle more, (and more efficiently)" is the only "smart solution" that will work in the long run.

Re:Great solution! (2)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816877)

The size of the population is the force multiplier. It doesn't matter what percentage you reduce each individual's consumption by, the impact is quickly swamped by the larger and larger number of individuals alive. Population control is by far the most effective and realistic way of have a large impact on resource consumption. Financial incentives to have one or less children is one answer.

Re:Great solution! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817043)

That's grim. The only right and moral way of doing population control is by introducing birth control methods and family planning to poor people. What you suggest is effectively a tax on children (or a rebate if you choose not to have children); that's absurd.

You're right on the rest, though. I laugh my ass off the hippies trying to "live green" as if it would make a difference. The behaviour of individuals is irrelevant when the industry down the block is burning fuel and releasing chemicals into the river; regulate them, not the consumers. I would happily buy "greener" products as long as they were better or at least as good as the dirtier alternatives.

Not to mention those hippies aren't actually "living green", they just think they are. I don't go to Starbucks and have had only two cellphones in the last 10 years. My carbon footprint is probably a lot lower then the idiot next door planting cabbage on his balcony.

Re:Great solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817091)

I completely agree, but even with a constant population, the resources available to us are finite.

Re:Great solution! (4, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817657)

Population is a non-problem. Growth is already basically zero (and often negative) in the developed world, and leveling off in the developing world. We've already reached "peak child", to use Hans Rosling's terminology. Due to the trajectory already in place we will reach ~10B population by around 2050, but that's it. We need to figure out how to handle that many people, but no more, and in fact beyond 2050 there's every reason to expect that the population will begin to decline, barring significant improvements in longevity.

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html

An excellent book I'd recommend to anyone who is scared of the future is "Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think". This Swedish garbage burning is an example of the healthy trajectory the world is on... no, it's not a perfect solution, but it's a significant improvement, both in greenhouse gases and in waste management, and it will be followed by other significant improvements. We're following an exponential curve of improvements in efficiency and cleanliness while the population growth is leveling off.

Actually pretty clever partial solution! (3, Insightful)

feepcreature (623518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816585)

Because, of course, it contributes NO greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

We're some way off global, carbon-free energy production, as you point out. But that's not the problem this is solving.

Of course energy from garbage contributes greenhouse gases. But this is not displacing greenhouse-gas-free nuclear or wave power generation - it is reducing the dependency on high-running-cost, greenhouse-gas-producing oil / gas / coal power. So it increases sustainability to that extent. That is a good thing. And less landfill is also a good thing.

It's not about "shiny", so much as improving things where and when we can. But we need to increase reuse and recycling (in that order), and reduce waste caused by built-in obsolescence, excess packaging, and excessive consumption too.

Re:Actually pretty clever partial solution! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816973)

But oil/gas/coal are cheap, not "high cost".

Also I'd expect that due to the uniformity of the fuel, oil/gas/coal might burn cleaner with less pollution. With various organics I'd expect significant variation in the fuel, and a much more difficult to control process.

Re:Great solution! (3, Interesting)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816673)

couldn't we either recycle more, (and more efficiently), and/or just consume less?

I'm all for that. Although since the Swedes have a garbage shortage, maybe they're already doing that reasonably well.

As it is, they may be producing greenhouse gases, but at least they're producing them from waste that has to be disposed of anyway and not trucking in fossil fuels that require extraction, refining and transport in addition to the energy consumed in hauling waste.

Every little bit helps.

Re:Great solution! (3, Insightful)

Skinny Rav (181822) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816865)

Because, of course, it contributes NO greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

When are we going to get serious about NOT actively promoting global warming with every 'solution' we come up with? Sure, incineration reduces methane emissions, but couldn't we either recycle more, (and more efficiently), and/or just consume less?

Our pursuit of 'shiny' is killing us.

First of all Sweden seems to recycle as much as possible to the point they ran out of garbage and have to import it.

Second, this matter would decompose anyway releasing (as you noticed) methane, a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If in those countries all this garbage would end up on landfills, why not to burn it thus both reducing coal burning and reducing methane emissions?

Third, nothing is lost. Do you think that if Sweden wasn't burning Italian trash, Italians would start recycling?

Zero net COâ emission (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816939)

The organic matter they burn was produced by farming, therefore the full cycle did not produce COâ. Unlinke burning oil, which releases all COâ fixed in ancient ancient forests during the last 500 million years.

Re:Great solution! (2)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816963)

Erh, the problem here is that Swedes recycles too much!

Re:Great solution! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817711)

When are we going to get serious about NOT actively promoting global warming with every 'solution' we come up with? Sure, incineration reduces methane emissions, but couldn't we either recycle more, (and more efficiently), and/or just consume less?

That's a good point. What's sad is that we don't even do the things we can do for free, like mandating that packaging shall carry symbols for recycling. We've already made such mandates for electronic goods, and plastic parts now have symbols stamped on them so you can take apart e.g. a PC and recycle basically the whole thing, so long as the manufacturer used rivets made of the same basic material as the case and so on. The difference in many cases between trash and recyclables is a quick heat-stamp.

Re:Great solution! (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818087)

Help me out here. The garbage is going to decompose anyhow and release the greenhouse gases. Sweden isn't doing anything to increase the gasses and might actually be reducing it. And this is before you take into account the greenhouse gas savings from not producing electricity from coal or natural gas. So how is what Sweden is doing causing an increase in greenhouse gasses?

One man's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816339)

One man's trash is another man's electricity.

Ingenious play on Sweden's part. What happened when every country adopts these policies - encouragement to throw more stuff away?

The enviromental Sweden (4, Interesting)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816343)

Swedes are very good at recycling and waste separation. Even McDonald et al. have different trash bins for everything.

Re:The enviromental Sweden (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816387)

Well, at least Sweden has a "Pollutor pays"-inspired law in place, meaning that anyone who sells anything must pay for the costs of taking care of the waste produced throughout the the lifecycle of the product (even from packaging of the product).

Re:The enviromental Sweden (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816593)

...different trash bins for everything.

Ah, yes [sharetv.org] !

Re:The enviromental Sweden (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816649)

I hate that sort of thing. They need either to make everything out of the same material so there is no need to sort or find a way to separate the materials at their end. Requiring customers to wonder if the cap on the soda goes a different place than the cup which may itself go somewhere else than the remaining food waste is just ridiculous. Where does the dirty food wrapper go? Is it food because it has food on it, or is it paper, or is it actually a plastic that looks like thin paper? Is the remaining soda food? Argh!

If it would not be economical to hire someone to separate the trash then it is MUCH LESS economical to have non-minimum-wage customers do it. It does not become more economical just because money isn't changing hands. No one would hire a judge, a doctor or an accountant to separate trash yet it doesn't dawn on them that the effect of requiring people to separate trash is the same. Trash sorting should not be done unless it is important enough to hire people to do it or to build machines that can do it.

Re:The enviromental Sweden (3, Insightful)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816925)

I can understand why you posted this anonymously...

Re:The enviromental Sweden (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41817039)

Swedes aren't as stupid as you are. Even kids know how to sort their trash.

Oil Drilling (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816353)

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, the discussion is Oil Drilling. Not trying to troll, but you guys need to get your priorities straight. It was not long ago you guys were pointing out the way forward and the world needs you to do so again.

Finally (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816365)

A renewable resource of almost unlimited potential! We can just consume more and throw it all in the garbage when we run low!

Isn't it enough to import all the HUMAN garbage? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816377)

It's a true genocide going on: Utmeskiten [kimmoa.se] .

Re:Isn't it enough to import all the HUMAN garbage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816841)

don't click; some kind of fascist propaganda game

Italy does it better (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816471)

They take your garbage and toxic dump at lower prices.

The fact that they dump it in the sea, volcano, ... is none of your business.

Re:Italy does it better (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816623)

Long live the mom an pop stores as the companies who do it are family owned. You know: THE Family. [pixfans.com]

A question arises (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816481)

What's the calorific value of an iPad?

The real money is in the trash (3, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816543)

Generating electricity from trash is pretty inefficient, the US had almost 200 incinerators in 1990 but roughly half of them have been shut down due to economics. The real money for Sweden is the fee for taking trash from European countries that don't have (or won't build) landfills. Still, in the long run it seems make more sense to burn it rather than just bury it even if burning is more expensive in the short term..

Re:The real money is in the trash (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818425)

Generating electricity from trash is pretty inefficient, the US had almost 200 incinerators in 1990 but roughly half of them have been shut down due to economics. The real money for Sweden is the fee for taking trash from European countries that don't have (or won't build) landfills. Still, in the long run it seems make more sense to burn it rather than just bury it even if burning is more expensive in the short term..

I was living in LA when they had to shut down the main dump because they filled in a valley. That shows how unsustainable our current system is of disposing of waste. Most of the plastics can be converted to various forms of fuel from diesel and fuel oil to a form of gasoline. Most of the rest is burned. So long as you filter the smoke the system works well since high temperatures break down most of the toxic materials. You mostly get carbon and trace amounts of metals. It's how they safely get rid of chemical weapons. Most organics turn back to carbon at high temperatures. If you want to capture the CO2 run it through a few hundred greenhouses. Waste heat from the plant can keep them warm and the plants grow faster and greener under higher levels of CO2. The extra food you produce would add to the cost effectiveness.

Re:The real money is in the trash (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818499)

The economics were due in part to the air pollution controls and the fact that the older style incinerators we designed to burn everything. You need to sort through stuff carefully.

Also, you might have noticed that the economics of oil and other power sources have changed slightly since the 1990s. Still sometimes a complex decision. We looked at restarting our small municipal incinerator but the start up costs and the limited power generated made industrial composting a better solution. But for a larger area, the decision might well have gone another way.

For the record (1)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816545)

Italy does have incineration plants and recycling facilities. Although it's true that there is still way too much reliance on landfills.

Re:For the record (2)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816921)

Landfills, or as they call them in Italy: Towns.

and then after 100 years, someone will harvest for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816563)

minirals inside the trash that was left behind. closer to home then going to antartica or africa.

Power Grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816583)

Damn Swedes buying up all the trash. I just need phase three to drop so the market can support another nuke plant.

Re:Power Grid (0)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816601)

Haha, I was going to make a Power Grid joke. Beat me to it!

We have a thing in the E.U. called a landfill tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816755)

We have a thing in the E.U. called a landfill tax. It's purpose was to encourage recycling. It has encouraged sending all the waste to mass burn instead because it makes landfill more expensive, and is cheaper than recycling.

EPA and emissions (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 2 years ago | (#41816825)

We used to do that in the US.

Columbus Ohio had a trash burning power plant but it got shut down in the mid 1980's because of the costs of environmental regulations. I wonder if anything like this could be possible in the US nowadays with the improved emissions processes?

Have this where I live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816827)

In Central CT, we stopped putting anything but ash into our landfills and have a trash to energy plant. It teeters on the edge of viability, the outfit that runs it is a bit sketchy, but there is no doubt that it is helping to dispose of waste AND generating energy. We recycle all kinds of stuff before it hits the plant... and I've often wondered if we really should recycle the paper and cardboard rather than have it go to the generating plant... I don't know which is better. Is there anyone here who does?

But where does the sludge go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816869)

FT PDF: "The sludge from the water purification process is dealt
with and finally stored in a safe way."

Further down in PDF: "Residues from flue gas
cleaning consist of ash, which is separated by a filter,
or sludge, which is separated in the wet cleaning
stages. These residues often have a higher content of
heavy metals than slag, but they are hard bound and
therefore must normally be dealt with by landfilling."

So almost perfect, but still much better than most nations.

Re:But where does the sludge go? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817019)

Now if they could just stockpile it and figure out a way to re-extract the elements, we could have (yet another) source for "rare earth" metals. The down side is that they're probably in a much lower energy state than when they entered the landfill, but at least all the fluff is gone.

Bad economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41816889)

Clearly if they had played Sim City 4 they would realize this is a very bad idea in the long term (even though the 5k simoleons might be worth it at first)

I hope Ecuador is prepared... (0)

Pikewake (217555) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817181)

... to take care of all the trash that doesn't want to go to Sweden.

baltic countries burn garbage too! (1)

ffcitatos (2763415) | more than 2 years ago | (#41817963)

Some Swedes do not know, that other Swedes are about to start burning garbage in Lithuania (one of the Baltic countries): http://www.fortum.lt/chp-plant [fortum.lt] .

Nothing new (1)

zmooc (33175) | more than 2 years ago | (#41818321)

Is it just me or is this nothing new? As least my dutch garbage has been used to generate electricity for ages, often using the waste heat from that process for heating. And since garbage processing is a commercial business, obviously they're going to want to use their capacity to the maximum. Since laws in Europe require proper garbage disposal, this is has been booming business in many European countries for quite a while and plants in the Netherlands have been processing garbage from several other European countries since national laws were changed to allow for this back in 2009.

Note that the obvious overcapacity in many countries is the result of way too enthusiastic responses to increased garbage dumping taxes in several countries. For example, the overcapacity in the Netherlands appears to have been created in response to the Germans finally prohibiting garbage dumping. Since Germany has overcapacity itself (and is for example importing garbage from Italy) this overcapacity in the Netherlands and apparently now in Sweden as well results in a lot of attention for importing garbage.

Note that this overcapacity - unfortunately - has another effect, and that's diminished commercial interest in recycling. As long as the furnace is not doing anything, money is lost. Therefore, potentially recyclable material is probably often burned nowadays...

Nothing new. The Music industry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41818403)

This isn't new. The music industry in the US has been doing this for decades.
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