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Nov 14 2010

Even Sweden’s garbage dumps are hyper-organized

While it’s not quite as bad as Germany, Sweden has some pretty strict rules for how garbage is to be disposed. In addition to encouraging aggressive recycling of paper, cardboard, hard plastic, metal and glass, there’s a ton of stuff that the guys on the municipal sanitation trucks will not take. (Pretty much anything bigger than a bread-basket and anything that can’t be safely burned, from what I’ve been able to observe.)

This means that 1) there’s booming private industry engaged in hauling away anything bigger than a bread-basket or hazardous to burn, and 2) Swedes not willing to pay someone else to do it make very regular visits to the dump.

I’ve been observing this for eight years now and it still blows my mid-western American mind. Prior to moving to Sweden, I had visited my local landfill *maybe* twice in my entire life, and one of those trips was probably a school field trip. Now it’s a semi-annual task, and I’m sure we’d go more often if we didn’t have to borrow a car or truck in order to do it.

I should probably clarify at this point that you don’t actually haul your own garbage to a landfill but rather to a sorting station where you drop your non-functioning electronics in one place, your collection of dead light bulbs and batteries in another, and your old worn out luggage in yet another. Malmö has two of them and both facilities are so large and so Swedish that there are even maps posted to help you find your way to the right series of industrial dumpsters for your trash.

After all the cleaning, sorting and pitching we’ve done over the last two weekends, we had to bribe the Alpha Geek into running us out to one of them this afternoon. Despite the rainy conditions, the place was PACKED. Even more surprising, it had an almost carnival-like atmosphere. A casual onlooker might even think that Swedes actually seem to ENJOY hauling their own junk to the dump. I suspect the reality has more to do with having saved money by doing it themselves.

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Feed my ego!

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