Swedish Waste Disposal

Will La Dow
December 5, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1:Estimated energy production and incineration in Sweden. [3] Series 1 is Energy Production and Series 2 is Incineration. (Source: W. La Dow, after Avfall Sverige. [3]))

Waste disposal has become a very important issue throughout the 21st Century. Currently, 1.3 billion tons of waste are being produced annually; that number is expected to rise to 4 billion by the year 2100. [1] The U.S. produced about 228 million tons of waste in 2006, a figure that increased to 254 tons by 2013. [1] Roughly one third of the waste is recycled, with the rest ending up in a landfill site or polluting the environment. Rising populations come with increased production and consumption, leading to massive amounts of waste. This surplus generates a need for alternative ways to dispose of waste.

Swedish Waste Disposal System

Sweden has done an amazing job transforming their waste disposal system. They have successfully increased recycling and turned waste into energy. Sweden reduces their CO2 emissions by 2.2 million tons annually by generating waste incineration energy amounting to the equivalent of 1.1 million cubic meters of oil. That much CO2 is generated by one year of emissions from 680,000 petroleum oil powered cars. [2] With this new system they are limiting trash buildup, creating energy, avoiding fossil fuels and drastically halting carbon emissions. Fig. 1 shows the energy production and incineration. The system is both profitable and good for the environment. [2]


Sweden has been able to drastically change their approach to recycling and waste disposal, simultaneously profiting and helping the environment. With Sweden as a model, other countries, specifically the United States, are able to shift toward a more eco-friendly and lucrative strategy of waste disposal.

© Will La Dow. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. M. Simmons, "The World's Trash Crisis, and Why Many Americans Are Oblivious," Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr 16.

[2] J. Gold, "Waste to Energy: Europe and the United States," Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2012.

[3] "Towards a Greener Future with Swedish Waste to Energy," Avfall Sverige, 2008.