SWEDEN: Recycling rates continue to climb, except metal and PET

Swedish EPA's annual recycling report shows that 1999 recycling rates have already met most 2001 EU targets for packaging waste. Sweden's own targets for packaging waste are more stringent and were generally met in 1999, with the exception of aluminium packaging, aluminium cans and returnable PET.


Although the report’s results are largely positive – and show that Sweden is already exceeding the EU’s overall target for packaging waste recycling – the Swedish EPA acknowledges that recycling rates for metals and PET packaging (see related story) are slowing down.

The Swedish EPA would like to see recycling rules for PET bottles updated. “PET-bottles were regulated previous to producer responsibility ordinances

and before the packaging directive,” an EPA spokesperson told edie. “The different rules are altogether not modern and compatible with each other.”

The EPA would like to develop producer responsibility as a whole. In its latest recycling report it asks whether regulation of manufacturers could be developed, or whether regulations for returnable bottles and drinks packaging can be adapted to the principles of producer responsibility.

At the moment recycling rates are presented as national figures, but the EPA has responded to a question from the Swedish Parliament’s Auditors and confirmed that recycling rates can be broken down by region and municipality, if requested. “We have no plans [to do so] from our central point of view, but the results are reported locally and then aggregated so it can easily be presented locally,” says the EPA spokesperson. “Sweden is geographically large with low density of population in the northern 70% [of the country]. Each municipality could prove different from its neighbour when it comes to

recycling rates.”

Recycling rates for 1999 are as follows:

  • 79% of waste paper was recycled, up one percent from 1997, and already exceeding the 75% target for the period beginning 2000
  • 117% of end-of-life tyres were recycled, up from 89% in 1997 and beating the 80% Swedish target
  • end-of-life vehicle recycling was reported for the first time, with 81% of a sample of cars recycled (the sample represented 24% of end-of-life vehicles)
  • 84% of glass waste was recycled, up seven percent from 1997
  • plastic waste recycling has reached 34%, beating Sweden’s target of 30%
  • cardboard recycling was at 40% for 1999, just meeting the target for 2001
  • 84% of corrugated cardboard was recycled, exceeding the national target by almost 20%
  • 62% of steel waste was recycled in 1999, down two percent from 1997 levels and missing the national target by eight percent
  • aluminium waste (other than cans) recycling jumped from 12% to 33%, but is still far below the 50% target for 2001
  • recycling targets for aluminium cans may be easier to meet, with the 84% recycling rate for 1999 only six percent below the 90% target
  • 98% of returnable glass bottles were recycled in 1999
  • 74% of returnable and recycled PET was recycled in 1999, dropping three percent on 1997 figures
  • recycling rates for reused returnable PET was also down, in this case by seven percent to 91%
  • overall, 73% of packaging waste was recycled in 1999, exceeding the EU target for 2001 of 65%

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