Recycle like a Swede!

One of the first things I was briefed about upon arriving in Sweden is the importance of recycling. The concept is not fairly new to me since in the city where I was from there’s already an existing ordinance to segregate wastes to biodegradable or non-biodegradable ones otherwise you’d have to pay fines. I’m just not that sure how strict the local government is in implementing it and how consistent they are.

Sweden has taken this to a much higher level though.

Known as a leader in solid waste management, the segregation does not just end up in categorizing whether a waste is biodegradable or not, but basically does it depending on its core material e.g. is it glass? aluminum? paper? plastic? textile? organic or household? It’s a no-brainer and much easier to identify for me but comes with a little more effort.

Below is a screenshot of a typical garbage room in a Swedish community. There are sorting bins for different kinds of waste.

(*Update 2015-01-27 : The garbage room shown here has been burned down as well as others from nearby vicinities. Who burned or what burned it? We don’t know. So at the moment we are dumping our garbage to just one bin with no sorters. However, we still try to sort our garbage in different plastic bags just to keep up with the norm.)

Inside the garbage room

Another popular way of recycling in Sweden is by returning emptied cans or plastic bottles of soda or beer. When you buy beers/soda, you are obligated to pay additional for return fee which you can get back once you have return the emptied item from any refund recycling machines.

As you can see from the sample screenshot below, the back label of the soda has the recycling logo and the corresponding return amount to it. Some people actually scavenge for these and get money out from it. Really cool.

Canned soda back label


To give you an illustration of what the refund recycling machines look like, I’ve taken some pictures along with my newly hired model/endorser. 😀

Basically, you just have to insert one by one the emptied can/plastic beer or soda to the hole (just like what our model is trying to show here :)). The machine will then scan each label and the screen will show the current amount available for refund. Once done, you can either claim the whole amount or if you are a big-hearted person who don’t need money that much, then you can choose to donate it ;). The machine will not dispense cash but a receipt which you can take to the cashier to exchange for money or use it as payment for any purchases you will make in the store.

Refund recycling machines Displaying refund amount on returns My newly hired endorser


According to, 99% of household wastes in Sweden has been recycled one way or another and just 1% ends up in the landfill. The wastes has been recycled either to turn to a new product, a raw material or a viable source of heat and gas. What is more astounding to know is the fact that Sweden is even importing garbage from their neighboring countries in Europe! 😼

I would definitely want them to import some from the Philippines too. And include the corrupt politicians as well as we also need to get rid of those. 😀


Swedish word/phrase for the day:

On the return machine, it says ‘Botten först!’ which means Bottom first! Though I have to admit that sometimes I forget to insert my emptied cans bottom first and then the machine will take it anyway. But just to ensure the machine does not spit it out, one should do it botten först!




Loves pets, travelling and food.
Now living in Sweden but originally from the Philippines.

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