Recycling Around The World

By Adam Ioannidis

We are all familiar with how metal recycling – and general recycling for that matter – is handled in Melbourne. But not everywhere does it as we do. Even within Australia, different recycling practices are undertaken. A perfect example of this would be the new Western Australia refund scheme for cans and bottle. So, for today’s blog, our Melbourne metal recycling experts are going to turn their eyes to the world and explore some interesting ways that other countries recycle.

They set targets

According to an article published on the World Economic Forum in 2017, the best recyclers in the world set rigorous and ambitious targets for their countries. These countries encourage recycling not only by explaining its environmental benefits but also by increasing funding and making it easier for households to recycle. Some of them even go as far as offering financial incentives for recycling.

Germany is the leading country when it comes to recycling. The European Union as a whole is hoping to cut at least 65% of waste by 2030 – whilst Wales is setting their sights much higher with a goal of zero waste by 2050. It’s not just the targets they set that separates these countries from others, but also the action they take which clearly yields positive results.

What’s up with Sweden?

Sweden is a country that is often considered to be the world-leader when it comes to waste recycling – even though Germany is statistically on top. One of the reasons for this is because Sweden includes the energy that they recover when they incinerate waste as part of their recycling rate. So, when they state that they recycle 99% of its waste, it technically isn’t true as most places don’t consider burning waste to be recycling. In fact, Sweden has to import garbage from other countries just to keep their plants going since only 1% of their waste goes to landfills.

The problem with this is, burning waste releases a lot of CO2 emissions – around 1355kg per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. This is actually more emissions then what is released from coal-burning (1020kg) and natural gasses (514kg). Whilst CO2 itself is not technically a pollutant, it does contribute to the greenhouse effect. Though these emissions would’ve been released eventually if the waste – which is predominantly made up of food, paper and other biomass-heavy items – had been left in a landfill, the incineration just releases them sooner.

It’s also been argued that waste-to-energy is a short-term solution and will not actually benefit us in the long-run. This is because Sweden is taking resources out of the game by incinerating them instead of recycling them for actual reuse. So, instead of reusing the resources, they’d have to create new items from scratch, which in itself takes up more energy and resources than doing it from recycled materials. 

Wales is kicking goals

We mentioned above that Wales is setting some ambitious goals for themselves to meet in the recycling world, but what we didn’t mention is that they’ve already achieved so much. They were the first country in the UK to introduce a charge for plastic bags way back in 2011. But, more importantly, they reached their 2020 recycling goal of 64% in 2016 – that’s four years early!

Germany is still #1

Germany’s households have four different bins:

  • Brown “BioTonne” bin for food waste – which is collected weekly;
  • Blue bin for paper – collected fortnightly;
  • Yellow bin for all forms of packaging – collected fortnightly on an alternating schedule with the blue bin; and
  • Black bin for other garbage – which is only collected once a month.

The primary reason that Germany’s recycling practise is so successful is because of strict policy and action. It is often joked about that Germany’s hobby is recycling since they have such rigorous rules – to the point where there are different bins in public for different coloured glass products. There are also specific times where you cannot recycle glass products – as well as cause other loud noises. This is during their quiet time.

Thinking of doing some metal recycling in Melbourne?

Whilst the rest of the world has some pretty interesting and recycling tactics, we have our own here in Melbourne too. Metal Men Recycling is a Melbourne metal recycling company that specialises in all forms of metal recycling. We offer pick-up services and can pay you for your scrap metal.

So, if you’re looking at doing some metal recycling in Melbourne, please give us a call on 03 5941 6677. Alternatively, you can fill out the enquiry form on our website.

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