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Learning from a circular economy pioneer

Jun. 28, 2019

Back in the 1990s, 60 percent of waste went to landfill in the Swedish city of Lund. Today it's less than 2 percent, and the region is a pioneer of the burgeoning circular economy.

How did they do it? "A combination of goals, waste management, politicians and citizens' common will," says Erik Rånlund from Lund.

SCALIBUR partners went to Lund to investigate how they brought about this transformation.

It starts at home

Residents of Lund have no less than eight wastebins for different materials: food, coloured glass, clear glass, cardboard, printed paper, metals, plastics and residual waste. This initial separation is fundamental to the success of Lund's recycling system.

To simplify collection in urban areas, the city installed underground communal bins. These bins extend three metres underground, and are drawn up into the sky in order to be emptied by the city garbage trucks.

Suburban residents are the proud owners of two extra-large wheely bins, each with four compartments for different types of waste. To handle these bins, the city waste management company commissioned a funky collection truck, also with four chambers.

Getting value from waste

Waste sorting by residents results in a very clean separation of materials. This makes it easier to recycle them into high value materials.

At the regional processing plant, run by SYSAV in nearby Malmö, food waste is converted into biofertilisers and biogas. Packaging and paper waste is sent around Sweden where they are recycled into new products.

The Lund region also has one of the world's most advanced waste-to-energy plants, meaning any residual waste that can't be recycled is turned into heat and electricity.

Lund is now so good at recycling that other EU countries export their waste there for processing. All this activity has made Lund a hub for innovative companies working on circular economy: food packaging producer Tetra Pak was founded here, among others.

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