Sweden has recently found itself in a shortage, but not the typical items you'd ordinarily think of when you hear the word shortage. What they are short on is trash.
The country had developed a way of generating energy from garbage and now has reached a point where it needs more refuse to keep its energy programs running.
In Sept. 2012, Digital Journalreported on Sweden's program that recycles trash to create energy. It seems the program of converting their own trash is so successful, Sweden is now increasing its importation of trash.
NPRreported the small country is now stepping up its efforts to increase its supply of waste. Sweden currently imports eight hundred thousand tons of trash per year from the rest of Europe and uses it to create energy in its power plants.
“We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration,” said Catarina Ostlund, Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, reported Public Radio International earlier this year.
Several countries, including Norway, pay Sweden to take their trash. It is less costly for Norwegians to pay for removal than burn their own.
In Sweden, only four percent of household waste ends up in landfills, said media reports. The recycled trash creates heated water for some, and also powers electricity for about 250,000 homes. Without enough trash, Sweden could find itself unable to create enough heat and electricity.
Aside from the shortage issue, there is another drawback to this type of recycling. Public Radio International reported there are dioxins in the ashes of the waste that pollute the air, along with some heavy metals that need to go into landfills; those ashes are said to be sent back to Norway to go into landfills.
Co-Existreported Sweden's waste incineration program was started in the 1940s. The major expansion of waste incineration plants occurred in the 1970s.
Sweden is reportedly also looking to also import waste from Bulgaria, Romania and Italy in the future since those countries are said to mostly rely on landfills. Ostlund did say this should only be a temporary solution in the long-term as she noted better reusing and recycling by all is the best long-term solution.
For more information on Sweden's program, click here [PDF].