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A Zero Waste month in Sweden: 4 people = less than 1kg of waste !

by Joan Marc Simon

How much waste do you generate in one month? Pål Mårtensson is a Zero Waster from Sweden, where he runs the famous Kretsloppsarken reuse and recycle park, who decided to check by himself how much waste does his household of four generate.

During one month Pål separated, measured and weighed the different waste fractions and the result has been amazing in many ways: “It was very easy, didn´t smell (careful cleaning) and you got a very good view of your waste when you look att it almost every day and that you take care, handle it not as waste but as resources. Out of almost 60 kg “waste”, there were only 0,9 kg I couldn´t handle in a satisfied way (probably goes to burning or bury). I´m very happy that so little is left for the burners, there will be a lack of waste for them if everyone made my example as a habit.” says Pål.

Want to check the detail?

Item dec 5-12-2011 – 3-1-2012

Paper (kg) 4,3 Recycle
Plastic (kg) 5,3 Recycle
Glas (kg/pcs) 7,9 23 Recycle
Pet (pcs) 1,3 22 Deposit
Cans (pcs) 0,8 7 Deposit
Metall (kg/pcs) 1,4 23 Recycle
Food -mostly peels, cores, coffee/tea grounds, bones, flowers…- (kg) 20,5 Compost
Commercials(kg) 3,6 paper Recycle
Newspaper(kg) 2,1 Recycle
Magazines(kg) 0,3 Recycle
Old tea(lit.) 5,9 Drain
Old coffee (lit) 2,1 Drain
Bulb (pcs) 0,1 1 Recycled
Textile (kg) 1,4 Reuse
Envelopes (kg) 0,2 Recycle/Burning
Electronic (kg) 1,2 Recycle
Rest/leftover(kg) 0,9
Burning/Bury(0,9kg rest/leftover) (candles, dishcloth, strings, tampongs,glossy paper)
59,3 kg “waste” total in one month

Therefore for a household of 4 pers and a period of one month including Christmas and New Year Pål’s family has generated 60kg. 15kg per person in average where the part that could not be composted, reused or recycled was only of 1,6%!!

If we look at the Eurostat statistics for Sweden we see that in 2009 Sweden was burning 49% of its waste and landfilling 1%. This means that the average Swede generates around 40 times more waste than Pål or that most of what the Swedish waste management system is burning is actually recyclable. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle…

Of course, the experience mentioned above is not representative (besides being only one example, Pål’s family generates 180kg per person/per year when the Swedish average is 480kg) but it does show the possibilities to live in a more sustainable way and how if all Swedes would follow Pål’s example could afford to close down all incinerators and radically increase recycling and composting.

There are Zero Waste experiences around Europe that confirm that what Pål has done can be repeated and it shows that, after all, it is up to us to make Zero Waste possible!

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