No Bag Ban in Sweden: Instead, More Plastic Recycling

Soft plastic sneaks into hard plastic stream, and in the coming system that's ok

Swedes do love to be all things green. But amazingly, there's no city or municipality in Sweden that has followed the green trend of banning plastic bags.

Ban Bag Would Rile Consumers
There's two simple reasons for that: 1) in Sweden you must put your garbage into the can inside a plastic bag, and 2) that bag more than likely is one you got (really that you paid for - all bags cost at least U.S.$.10 each) at the grocery store - buying garbage bin liners is basically unheard of. And where do all the trash bags go? Well, mostly they are burned in Sweden's system of incinerators.

Swedes world's best recyclers
Thus there's little municipal incentive to ban bags. Except that Sweden also loves its reputation as one of the world's best recycling nations, and has producer responsibility directives on the books that make it necessary for packagers to take care of their waste - and in plastic's case at least 30% of it must be truly recycled, not just burned. So what's the Scandinavian recycling leader to do?Recycle more plastic
Start recycling more of their soft plastic, that's what. Starting November first, 191 municipalities will let consumers toss all soft plastic packaging into the same bin with hard plastic. Woo-hoo! That's a plus for hard-core composters and recyclers, as once you start getting rid of all or some of your kitchen scraps in an indoor or backyard composter, and you recycle, your trash dwindles down to...well, it dwindles down to mostly a bunch of plastic bags and pieces of random plastic.

2.2 pounds of plastic = 2.2 pounds of CO2
The higher cost of oil as well as new technology that makes it easy to machine-sort all the different plastics has made it more feasible for soft plastic recycling in Sweden. Once the system is up and running, the 90-odd municipalities that have separate bins for soft plastic will also be diverting their collections to real recycling (right now they send it to a cement kiln to be used as fuel). Though it won't count as part of their CO2 reduction goals nationally or with the EU, recycling the plastic is a great CO2 reducer - each kilo of recycled plastic "saves" a kilo of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Recycling Authority in Sweden. Via ::Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish)
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