Sweden is building the world’s largest and most modern plastics recycling facility and is about to make plastics completely circular in the country. “We have decided that all plastic packaging in this country should be recycled so that it can become new plastic products.” That this is possible seems to me to be profoundly hopeful for all the societies drowning in plastic now.
Site Zero will be a fully-automated, climate-neutral, plastics recycling facility that will be able to recycle all plastic packaging from Swedish homes without producing emissions. It will be powered by renewable energy, generated from solar panels on Site Zero’s large flat roof.
“With Site Zero we’re doubling our capacity and will be able to handle 200,000 tonnes of plastic packaging per year,” says Swedish Plastic Recycling (Svensk Plaståtervinning), which is investing more than $116.5 million to develop the facility at its existing plant in Motala, Sweden. The new 60,000-m2 facility will be completed in 2023. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) is supporting the project with financing of $20.8 million through the climate investment aid program, Klimatklivet.
“Thanks to cutting-edge technology it will be possible to recycle practically all types of plastic. Today the facility can manage four types of plastic – in the future Site Zero will make it possible to sort and recycle twelve different types. Any small parts of plastic that remain after the sorting process are separated to be sent to chemical recycling, or to become new composite products. At Site Zero, zero packaging goes to incineration.
There is today no other facility in the world that has that capability. We are also preparing for washing and granulation of the plastic in phase two, which is planned for 2025. Then our entire plastic flow in Sweden can become circular.”
The new facility will make Sweden a world leader in plastic recycling, says Mattias Philipsson, CEO of Swedish Plastic Recycling. “Being able to do it together with our producer customers and owners, who consist of large parts of the Swedish business community, is very inspiring.”
Swedish Plastic Recycling operates a nationwide system for collecting and recycling plastic packaging in Sweden, which has extended producer responsibility legislation affecting more than 10,000 companies. The current Motala facility is already the most efficient recycling facility in Europe.
The producer responsibility means that everyone who puts plastic packaging on the Swedish market is responsible for ensuring a collection system exists for recycling it, that customers get the information they need, and that collected packaging is recycled and put to good use as either new raw material or as energy. The business is mainly financed by packaging fees paid by producers and is run on a non-profit basis so the cost of collection and recycling will affect the price of goods as little as possible.
By 2023, Site Zero will employ 150 to 200 workers, up from about 80 currently.
“Circular economy is an approach that involves using products that can be reused completely, a so-called cradle-to-cradle approach. In 2018 the Swedish government even established a special advisory group, Delegationen för cirkulär ekonomi (the delegation for circular economy, link in Swedish), to help make circular economy a key part of government policy.”
Says Ida Lemoine, founder of Beteendelabbet (link in Swedish), Swedish for ‘behaviour lab’, tries to find innovative solutions to sustainable living: ‘We think people need services that make it easy to do the right thing. We need to make it possible for ourselves as consumers to share and reuse all kinds of gadgets, clothes and furniture, and even our workspaces and homes.’
Recycling Facility to Process All Household Plastic Waste in Sweden. Plastics Today, Sep. 2, 2021
We Are Building Site Zero. Swedish Plastic Recycling.
How Sweden is turning its waste into gold. France 24, Jan. 12, 2018.
How Sweden Sends Just 1% of Its Trash to Landfills. Reasons to be Cheerful, Apr. 8, 2022