From the moment China stopped importing the world’s recyclable waste, countries worldwide have been struggling to find new methods to deal with the trash they produce. Some countries took their plastic, paper, and scraps to landfill sites or started the fires at recycling centres, but they soon understood the environmental risks they expose themselves by doing so. Other states have created regulations and laws to pass the responsibility of dealing with recyclable waste to their citizens.
States like Australia support the ban of waste export because they want to prevent the trash from ending in the ocean. They consider that the waste every country creates, it’s their responsibility and they should find ways to handle it. But many nations have no clue what they should do with the waste they produce. A solution would be to inspire from the programs some countries adopted. Here are the top recycling nations in the world.
Germany recycles 66.1% of the waste it produces. People use six different bins, brown for composting, green for coloured glass, white for clear glass, yellow for plastic, blue for paper, black for general waste. Citizens do the sorting themselves and the authorities handle the rest. The German government also asks companies to make reusable and recyclable packaging solutions, and use recycling tools to collect their trash.
Wales recycles over 63% of its waste, and it was the first nation to charge people for using plastic bags. Since the introduction of the fee on plastic bags, their use dropped with 70%. To increase their recycling rates they set statutory targets, improved separate waste collection services, and engaged the citizens into the process.
Singapore recycles 61% garbage, but they own this rate to their informal recyclers who collect over 20% of the household recyclable trash. They visit people’s houses, collect trash, select it, and sell it to companies that use recycled materials to manufacture new products.
South Korea recycles 59% of its trash, and it’s famous for the program that encourages citizens to dispose of food waste. Since 2013, all residents must discard food waste in biodegradable bags, they pay for. The authorities use the money they collect to fund the recycling program.
The Netherlands reached 56% recycling rates because they adopted some innovative initiatives to boost their percentage. Amsterdam’s residents receive tokens when they recycle plastic, they can later use to get discounts at local businesses. Dutch companies revolutionised the recycling process because they turn scraps into various new materials.
If you visit Vienna, you’ll hardly find a piece of trash because it recycles over 55% of its garbage. The government encourages people to cut down food waste, opt for reusable coffee cups and use reusable diapers.
Slovenia is a small country but it proves big nations that recycling is easy when you make efforts. They reuse 53% of their trash by turning it into biofuel, compost or other products.
Sweden is running a bottle recycling scheme since 1984 and it helped it increase recycling to 48%. People can drop off their plastic and glass bottles and cans at reverse vending machines that offer them vouchers. Sweden also prohibited the sale of other cans and bottles that aren’t part of the program.
Around 50% of Denmark’s trash is recycled, and leftover waste is sent to incinerator plants that burn and transform it into energy to heat up citizens’ houses. The authorities built a new incinerator in Copenhagen that turns waste into clean energy. The building also serves as a ski slope and activity centre for the residents. Denmark reached this rate because not only individuals and authorities took measures to lower their footprint, but also corporations. Companies use compactors in Denmark to recycle plastic and cardboard and save time and money.
Innovations that can solve the waste crisis
If the above examples aren’t enough to prove that nations can solve the trash crisis they experience, here are some innovative solutions that can definitely help.
Use plastic bags and glass to make roads
Australia made a road, 16 miles north of Melbourne, from plastic bags, glass bottles and waste toner from printer cartridges. The material they used is called Reconophalt and it’s made from the above materials and asphalt. Close the Loop is the companies that created this new type of asphalt, and it’s ready to export its product to help other nations build green roads.
Create small portable recycling factories
Most of the factories that repurpose paper, glass, and plastic are large because they run extensive and expensive operations. But to easily collect waste and repurpose it, researchers try to develop small modular machines individuals and companies can use to create new products. They think these small factories will revolutionise the recycling process because authorities can take them to where waste is located instead of transporting trash to permanent facilities.
Make sturdy materials from disposable cups
People place disposable coffee cups in yellow bags because they think this is the best way to recycle them. But because they contain a fine film of plastic, factories find hard to process, transform, and reuse them. But researchers came with a new solution, they suggest cutting the cups and mixing the materials with shredded plastic to make products like coat hangers, planter boxes, outdoor benches, and even reusable coffee cups.
Make electricity from household waste
Countries can build plants that transform household waste into green energy. In Sweden and Australia, these plants are so popular they have to import trash from other countries to provide energy to their citizens. This solution encourages the reduction of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emission from decomposing waste. Instead of transporting the trash to a landfill site where it pollutes the air, water, and soil, nations can take it to a plant that converts it into energy.
Imagine a world where you don’t see trash on the streets and breath fresh air. It’s a utopia but if both individuals and authorities make an effort, they can bring the world a step closer to this dream.