Waste & Recycling

In 2020, just over 4.8 million tonnes of waste from households in Sweden were treated, this corresponds to as much as 466 kilos of waste per person. For a household of five, it is over 2 tons of garbage. These are really large quantities and these are only expected to increase – rubbish and the lack of ability to handle them is becoming an insurmountable global problem. According to the UN, for example, there will be more plastic than fish in marine environments by 2050 if littering continues. It is therefore important that we make conscious and sustainable choices regarding our waste. Read more about conscious recycling and waste management here.

Garbage beyond borders
  • In 2017, EU countries exported three million tonnes of plastic waste to countries outside of Europe. Most affected by unsustainable waste management are mainly people in poor countries. In many of those places it is common with large landfills or that the waste is incinerated directly in nature, which is a great risk for humans, the local environment and the climate.
  • A ban came into force in December 2019, that prevents the export of hazardous waste from OECD countries and EU countries to countries that are not members of the OECD or the EU. In practice, this means that exports between rich and poor countries are limited.

Plastic is a fantastic material in many ways. It is cheap to manufacture, which has meant that, for example, health care has been made much easier in many ways – you do not have to disinfect everything and can instead use disposable items. You can adapt the plastic production and its components to get exactly the properties you want – transparent, colored, soft, hard, stretchy, and in addition, plastic holds incredibly well. Maybe a little too good?

Plastic that ends up in nature is hardly broken down at all, but is often comminuted into smaller parts. Many animals think it is food and eat it – it partly fills up their stomachs, but there are also substances in the plastic that can be toxic, which then leak out into their bodies. The plastic eventually breaks down into tiny tiny particles – microplastics. Both us humans and the animals are exposed to them, consciously or not. 40% of all plastic that ends up in the oceans comes from packaging and more than one million plastic bags are used in the world every minute. In Sweden, we are good at recycling compared to other countries, but despite that, lots of plastic ends up in nature. Keep Sweden Clean has arranged garbage cleaning weekends in Sweden. There are usually several boat loads full in just a couple of days.

  • Stop buying bottled water. Sweden has good tap water. Invest in a durable stainless steel bottle – you will do both the environment and your own health a favor. The same goes for the coffee on-the-go – bring your own instead, in your own reusable coffee mug / thermos. Read more about water.
  • Reduce plastic by trying to buy packaging-free. In Malmö, there is a packaging-free store called GRAM. There are similar stores around the country where you can buy regular dry goods in bulk.
  • Say no to plastic bags and reuse the ones you have. Bring cloth bags when you go shopping. There are now also reusable fruit-and-vegetable bags to buy. You can also sew your own from old transparent curtains!
  • Always recycle the plastic you can no longer use.
  • Read more about plastic-packed organic food here.
Advice on conscious recycling and waste management
  • Repair, replace and buy second hand. Avoid the wear-and-tear culture and take good care of what you already have.
  • Avoid disposable items, especially those made of plastic.
  • Get compost and / or food waste bags, if it is not in your municipality / building, talk to the person in charge if it can be set up.
  • Buy packaging-free, avoid packing fruit and vegetables in plastic.
  • Reduce food waste, read more about food waste here.
  • Avoid cheap electronics, they often contain hazardous chemicals and break down quickly.
  • Recycle and donate what you no longer want, at many recycling centers today there is a room where you can both repair and / or leave furniture and stuff.
  • Recycle correctly. Read how here.
  • Reduce your garbage! Get tips here.


Page updated 2021.