Where did my trash go?

Have you thought about your garbage lately? In places like the one I come from, people don’t need to think much about their waste. It is common to litter on the streets, or maybe if you have a little more foresight you actually put it in a trash bin, but in both cases you proceed to forget about it soon after. ”It will probably take care of itself, right?”. That general mindset used to bother me… I thought, why aren’t we paying more attention to where we put our trash? Why do we dispose of so many things, and once we dispose of them… how come they’re not getting recycled?!

So coming to Sweden was literally a breath of fresh air. Barely any trash to be seen on the streets, where citizens are often forced to think more about their garbage. You have to see what you have at hand and then sort it according to the system that is in place. It was taking part into the kind of system I wished for my country, and for the first time realizing how much garbage I can produce, what sparked the whim to get more insight into how it all worked. And that’s how I ended up taking the Waste Management course in Chalmers. I have to admit that I started  with different expectations; not having had any similar course in my previous studies led me to assume that waste management was a simple matter. Little did I know that it is such an extensive subject! In the course we learned how to treat waste flows that didn’t even occur to me before: magnets, nuclear fuels, tree residues?! So much more than I imagined!

And as it is usual with the best courses I have taken in Chalmers, there was a study visit to show us in live action what we were learning on power point presentations. We got to visit Ryaverket, the plant that receives waste from the Borås municipality. It was fun to see how comprehensive can be the simplest of waste sorting methods. The waste received in the plant is divided into food waste and combustible waste. Into the plant also come wood chips that remain from the forestry industry. As a simplified version, one could say that you feed these  ingredients to the plant and end up obtaining bio-fuel, district heating, cooling, electricity, ashes to be used as fertilizer in the forest, more ashes for back fill and construction, and a fraction of metal to be recycled later on. Absolutely neat. If you wish to read more about the plant, go here. Below you can see the pictures I took at the study visit:


Accumulation tank



Trash trash trash! A very special smell in this place.



IMG_1068 Simone and Huberta, the two boilers


A truck bringing the wood chips for processing


The headquarters




Do you know if you have a similar waste management system in your city? Maybe this post makes you curious about where your trash is going!