99% or Swedish experience for Ukraine. Is it possible to recreate the success?

Every year citizens of Ukraine produce about 300-350 kg of waste each.

In total, about 10 million tons of solid municipal waste is exported to landfills. Only 4.2% of it is sorted, and another 2.5% is used for energy recovery, while the remaining 93.3% are simply taken to landfills, which are not always legal. According to the Ministry of regional development, there are more than 30,000 illegal and only about 5,400 legal landfills in Ukraine.

The problem of waste management is rapidly gaining momentum. The area of landfills has already exceeded more than 12,000 square kilometers. Frequent violations of landfill operation rules that lead to fires with significant harm to the environment and humans also stir up this problem. Recently, a large forum on the problem of waste management in Ukraine was held in Kyiv, where participants were searching for an answer to the ultimate question: how to solve the waste problem in Ukraine?

I have been working in this field for many years and have already made a simple conclusion for myself that international experience, especially from Sweden, should not be ignored in solving this issue. This country is a good example for the whole world in terms of environmentally oriented policies. Take the Environmental Code, for example, according to which all bills submitted to the Swedish Parliament are strictly checked for possible damage to the environment. In general, Swedish environmental policy aims to leave the future generation with a minimum of unresolved environmental issues. So far, they are succeeding in the matter.

According to the local waste management Association Avfall Sverige, 99% of municipal waste is recycled in Sweden. This is one of the highest rates in the world. At the same time, the Swedes have learned to effectively turn waste into energy. Almost half of the country’s waste is incinerated, but only after careful sorting. Plastic, paper, and food waste are recycled or used for production of biogas.

What is the secret of success? First of all, the comprehensive approach. Everyone is responsible. Waste management is based on the model of maximum recycling, reuse and energy recovery. The last priority is the landfills. Notably, it is not cheap. It costs 49 euros to landfill one ton of solid waste in Sweden, for comparison in Ukraine this figure is 0.15 euros per ton of waste. Feel the difference?

The areas of responsibility are clearly distinguished. Ordinary Swedes sort waste at home. Local governments are responsible for waste management in the entire city, including store, food services and office waste, as well as for organizing the removal of waste to processing plants. Each local government has its own waste management strategy, which includes plans for reducing hazardous impact of waste on the environment.

The principle of extended producer responsibility is applied to manufacturers. Which simply means that they are responsible for recycling the packaging of their products after use. This encourages them to develop products that are easier to process and contain fewer substances that are harmful to the environment.

This careful approach produces impressive results. 50.6% of waste in Sweden is recycled, 48.6% is used in the waste-to-energy process, and less than 1% of waste is sent to landfills. Furthermore, Sweden additionally imports about 800,000 tons of waste each year to load its waste processing plants. Buying waste is no longer something out of the ordinary.

I would also like to emphasize the experience of Sweden in using the technology of converting waste into energy. Swedes get 20% of their heat and electricity from energy recovery. And in doing so, they have not deviated from their environmental principles. After burning, the cinder is further cleaned and gravel is separated from it, which is then used in road construction. The smoke from burning is cleaned using dry filters and water, then this water is purified with multi-stage filters to the state of drinking water. In general, 99% of the smoke after burning waste is carbon dioxide and water vapor. Solid residue is used for mine backfill.

Ukraine also has great potential in this field. In total, we could get 3.5 million Gcal of heat energy and 1.2 billion kWh of electricity from energy recovery. This is equivalent to 1 billion cubic meters of expensive imported gas. In addition, the National Commission for State Regulation of Energy and Public Utilities tariff for thermal energy obtained from waste burning may be significantly lower than the price of heat obtained from burning gas. That is, in addition to environmental benefits, Ukrainians will receive bills with significantly lower amounts payable.

What can be done? The task of the state is to create the necessary conditions. The current waste management strategy entails a 30% reduction in the volume of solid waste sent to landfills by 2030. But this waste will not disappear on its own. Construction of waste processing plants costs tens of millions of euros. Investors have long been willing to invest these funds, but the legal uncertainty is holding them back. I hope that this issue will be resolved soon and a new era of solid waste management will finally begin in Ukraine.

The material was taken from LIGA.net