The issue of recycling in Sweden, South Korea and Singapore

For four days, Lyon will host the Pollutech trade fair, which presents itself as the trade fair for environmental solutions, particularly in terms of recycling. Direction Sweden, South Korea and Singapore

In Sweden, recycling is a bit of a second nature

As in many Nordic countries, recycling is one of the many solutions available to consumers. It starts with recycling dumpsters, which can be found on every street corner. But that’s not all. In any small supermarket, you have machines that collect plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and give you back the deposit money. Shoemakers and other household appliance repairers benefit from a reduced VAT rate, to promote reuse. It also affects fashion. In some neighborhoods now you have more second-hand clothing stores than new ones. The result is that in Sweden only a tiny percentage of garbage ends up in landfill. From this point of view, he is the European champion.

But that doesn’t mean the country has won its fight against waste. Because if Sweden does almost nothing in landfill, it is also because it burns its waste to generate heat and energy. The method is contested in other countries, but here we trust the technology that is supposed to clean the fumes, and there are 34 plants of this type. Another concern is that 467 kg of waste are collected each year per person per year, and this figure is steadily declining. It’s like the recycling rate, which was good twenty years ago, but has now fallen back to the European average. We feel in Sweden that to go further, it will not be enough to recycle. We should now generate less waste, at the source, because the best waste is still not to produce it.

In South Korea, progress in recycling food waste

In this extremely fast growing country the recycling system has made great progress as well. in restaurants than in homes. In Seoul, for example, some food waste is deposited in one of the city’s 6,000 automated bins. The bag is weighed and the bill depends on the weight. One way to empower citizens who were once the champions of the food waste. 20 years ago South Korea recycled only 2% of its food waste, a figure that has now reached 95%. The leftover food is then compressed, the wet part is transformed into biogas while the dry waste becomes fertilizer for the city’s gardens. This transformation is as beneficial for the planet as it is for the municipality’s portfolio. Thanks to this efficient sorting Seoul has saved 8.4 million dollars (just under 7.3 million euros) over the last six years.

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If the country is effective in its management of food waste, this is not the case for plastic. The problem remains present as in other Asian countries, but it has above all been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Online food deliveries have exploded by more than 73% in this year of health crisis, leading to a colossal increase in plastic waste. If now 43.6% of them are recycled, the country continues to incinerate, bury or export its waste to Thailand or the Philippines. For the rest, it is unfortunately open-air deposits that are formed like the one in Incheon, in the great metropolitan area of ​​Seoul, where half of the country’s population resides. This landfill should close in 2025. A real headache for the authorities who cannot find a place to store the 12,000 tonnes of daily waste that they stored on site.

In Singapore, wastewater is the subject of much interest

This small country in Southeast Asia wants to be a pioneer in the recycling of wastewater. Globally, 80% of wastewater is discharged into nature, but in Singapore 40% of sewage water reappears in the taps of industries and individuals.

If Singapore is interested in recycling wastewater, it is because despite its often rainy weather, this small country is in a situation of water stress. “It rains all the time, and yet we lack water, explains Professor Snyder, director of the Environment and water research institute. It sounds crazy but it makes sense: Singapore is a small country with one of the highest density in the world. So there is no room to collect this rainwater, there is infrastructure to desalinate seawater, but it takes a lot more energy than recycling wastewater. ” The latter method also has other advantages with a possible infinite or almost infinite recycling, and a limitation of marine pollution.

This waste water becomes clean and even drinkable because it is treated by a reverse osmosis system, in particular ultraviolet and chlorine. The result is impressive, in the end this recycled water reaches purity standards higher than the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). But, a psychological barrier may remain. To fight it, the former Prime Minister had drunk a bottle of this treated water live on television, and schools regularly visit recycling centers, in short Singapore has made this technology a pride and does not intend to stop the. The proportion of recycled water is expected to reach 55% of consumption by 2060, according to the National Water Agency.

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