Tag archives for recycling

Swedes, world champions of electronic waste


The electronic waste of the day at the recycling station in my neighbourhood. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

As you probably already know, sorting our waste and recycling is something of a popular sport in Sweden. Yesterday figures for the Swedes’ achievements when it comes to taking care of our electronic waste were published, and – voilà, we’re on top of the world list at bringing our old electric toothbrushes, coffee machines, computers, mobile phones, refrigerators and light bulbs to the recycling stations.

During 2011 we recycled 154 185 tons of electronic waste, which equals more than 16 kilo per person (to be compared to the Euro directive which is set to 4 kilos per person). During last year we recycled 82 million electronic gadgets – 4 million more than the year before.

Now of course you can look at this in two ways:

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ReFurn: Finding new homes for old furniture


Mattias Thambert with some of his saved furniture. Photo: Linda Gren.

Ever thought about what happened to your old sofa after throwing it away? Swedish entrepreneur Mattias Thambert definitely did. And what he found out was that many of the beds, sofas, desks, tables, chairs and so on, that we so eagerly buy and happily bring home, are thrown out long before they are useless – and then end up either recycled (chipped down and burned for energy) or crushed to waste on a dump or landfill.
That is a sad end for a lot of nice pieces of furniture from the 20′s, 30′s, 40′s and 50′s, that are often of much better quality than today’s furniture, which are made from poor quality fast growing wood, rubber, chipboard and laminate that cannot be re-used.

Mattias Thambert’s way to change this was to start a company, ReFurn. People who come to the big recycling station in Bromma, Stockholm, can now choose to give their old furniture to ReFurn instead. Mattias Thambert and his colleagues then clean them up, fix them a bit if necessary – and sell them to a new home. Read more » >>

“O-ho, loppis, selling our sh** in the street” or How to renew good ideas

Flea market 2.0 in Aspudden. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Although every new generation may like to think of itself as inventive and pioneering, I have to admit that many of the “new” green things that people do now were pretty well-known already among our grannies. What is often new and inventive, however, is  the way to do these things – and how to present them.

One example is a simple thing like growing vegetables for your own consumption. People have been doing that for thousands of years, but I don’t know if it’s ever been such a social activity as this time around.

Young musicians playing hits from the Star Wars. Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Another example is the noble act of reusing. During the shiny 1980:s I remember flea markets like something that people didn’t really brag about, whether they were going there to sell their stuff or buy from others. After last weekend’s now annual “2 km flea market” in Aspudden in the South of Stockholm, I’m prepared to say that things have changed. Just look at this official anthem for the event (video below), where JP de Pedro raps about how he cannot make more space for all the weird things he gathered during the years (like his Kill-Bill trousers or shoes that are one size too small). But now he’s got a great new idea: To make a loppis (flea market).

I just love it. And others seemed to do too, as you can see on the photos above. Two kilometers of pavement packed with people selling what they don’t need anymore – and others doing bargains.

A very longed-for brown bag


Yes! The bags have arrived! Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Finally! I could have cried out when I put the brown paper bag under my kitchen sink a few weeks ago. Now I din’t, since after all I’m a rather sober-minded Swede. But nevertheless it’s great to – at last – be able to leave my organic waste for composting and biogas-production.

Since I moved to Stockholm in 2004 I have been suffering a little bit every time I’ve had to throw vetegable peelings or half-mouldy leftovers from last week’s dinner (that I have kept in the fridge, hoping the day would come to eat them…) in the waste bin. Burning organic materials, knowing that it would make excellent new soil, is just a big shame.

In many Swedish cities it’s a matter of course that the inhabitants sort out their organic waste and leave it in separate bins. But not in all cities. Yet.
One of the Swedish national environment objectives for 2010 was to recycle 35 percent of the organic waste from households, restaurants, institutional kitchens and shops. But when last year had passed, only 20 percent of our food waste was taken care of biologically. Now a new objective has been proposed: to reach 40 percent by 2015. In that case we have a lot to do.

When I moved to my own flat after years of living in other people’s apartments, I realised I ought to do something about my bad organic waste-throwing conscience. But things don’t always go fast… After trying to make my building society interested in starting a food compost behind our laundry room (which didn’t awake the euphoric reactions I had hoped for. More like “What about the smell? And will there be rats?”) someone kindly tipped me that the city of Stockholm could do the work for me.

And – tada – suddenly we’ve got the city’s containers for organic waste, being emptied every week.  The waste becomes bio fertilizer for the farms around Stockholm, or biogas that runs garbage trucks, buses or ordinary cars. One tonne of food waste equals 67 litres of petrol.

Not causing me bad conscience anymore. Photo: Sara Jeswani.




Jenny Harlen took the Bokashi kitchen compost to Sweden


Jenny Harlen with her Bokashi buckets. Photo: Leif Djärv.

Lately readers of this blog might have followed the compost hardships of one of my blog readers, Pol from Croatia. Composting kitchen waste isn’t always easy, especially if you live in a city apartment. Bad smell, slow decomposition of the food leftovers or neighbours’ fear of rat invasions can discourage even the most enthusiastic composter.

But recently I heard of a way to turn food waste into compost without all the smelly bits. Jenny Harlen is a New Zeelander who came to Sweden and realized we hadn’t yet heard about the Bokashi method. Now she receives nominations and prizes for her work.

The technique makes compost of food waste in two steps. First, the waste (even normally difficult material such as prawn shells, minced meat and chicken’s bones) is left to ferment in an airtight kitchen container with some Bokashi bran (micro-organisms mixed with wheat bran) Next, the scraps are mixed with soil outdoors and becomes compost in just a few weeks, depending on the soil temperature. After that it’s ready to be used as plant soil.

The idea of using natural micro-organisms was developed in the late 1980:s by the Japanese professor Teruo Higa and is now used all over the world. One good thing about this technique is that there are no CO2 or methane emissions from the process.

Now the method is spreading in Sweden, and Jenny Harlen has also found ways to adapt it to our cold winters, when the ground is frozen and impossible to dig up.

According to her the amount of Bokashi powder needed to keep the compost going only costs about one Swedish kronor per day. And it doesn’t smell – not even when you put surströmming (fermented herring, which normally has an unbearable smell even when you eat it…) in the bucket, I read on her Bokashi blog.

I haven’t yet tried this method at home, but while I am still waiting for the municipal waste system to start collecting the organic waste from the block of flats where I live, maybe it would be a good alternative.


Looks like good soil to me. Photo: Leif Djärv.