International Review of Recycling Policies



7.1 Recycling in Sweden is often facilitated by extended producer responsibility ( EPR) schemes, which require households to sort and separate their waste into streams and transport the recyclable waste to container parks. This 'bring' system has been criticised as being overly complex. The limitations of such EPR schemes are presented below.

7.2 The use of fiscal levers to encourage recycling is common and the Swedish experience indicates that rates need to be sufficiently high in that national context to influence behaviour.

Summary : Sweden

System of Governance

Sweden's 289 municipalities are responsible for the planning of all waste management


9.1 million

Population Density

20 inhabitants/km 2 29

Rate of households residing in a single, detached or attached house

59% 30

Definition of MSW (re UK definition)


Waste generated per capita (2005)

480kg/inhabitant 31

Recycling Rate (2005)


Composting Rate (2005)


Rate of Incineration (2005)


Rate of Other Disposal (2005)


Rate of Landfill (2005)


Rate of Landfill (1995)

35% 32

Landfill Tax


7.3 Overall responsibility for waste management rests with the Ministry of the Environment (part of the central government), although Sweden's 289 municipalities are responsible for the planning of all waste management, including the waste for which they do not have operative responsibility (Hill et al, 2002).

Targets and trends

7.4 Hill et al (2002) report that recycling of municipal waste increased from 19% in 1994 to 39% in 2000 while the rate of incineration of municipal waste decreased slightly from 41% in 1994 to 39% in 2000. While no specific targets are set for the management of municipal waste, targets for recycling of certain waste streams set in 1999 have been met or surpassed.

Drivers of change

7.5 Similar to the Netherlands and Denmark, Hill et al (2002) report that there is some public concern about landfill and incineration (specifically the production of dioxins) which has led to an increased desire for recycling and composting but that EfW is also regarded by some as an important source of heat and electricity and as a preferable alternative to nuclear energy.

Waste Infrastructure

7.6 In 1994, the government introduced the compulsory sorting of waste materials for recycling by household, however, this has not been enforced, largely because the recycling system is based on a bring system ( RRF, 2004). The government introduced EPR legislation to cover:

  • Waste paper (in 1994)
  • Tyres and packaging (in 1994)
  • End-of-life vehicles (in 1998)
  • Electrical and electronic products (in 2001),

7.7 The collection and processing costs are passed onto the consumer as part of the price of the product. An additional aim of the EPR legislation was to encourage more efficient design of packaging by producers (Hill et al, 2002).

7.8 Sweden has infrastructure for the reuse of most glass and metal drinks containers through a deposit and return system. It is estimated that the beverage industry operates a take-back and reuse scheme for 460 million glass bottles, and 70 million plastic bottles, achieving a return rate of over 90% (Forfás, 2006).

7.9 The municipalities have considerable autonomy and, as a result, can charge according to volume, weight or frequency of collection, as they see fit, for example, households can get reduced charges for composting or for less frequent collections. There is some private investment in Sweden, largely surrounding collection systems and recycling, while most landfill sites and all but one of the 22 incinerators are owned by the municipalities (Hill et al, 2002).

Policy levers

7.10 The main lever to have been used in Sweden is that of EPR which places mandatory recycling targets on producers, although an overview of all the policy option is presented in the summary table below. Inherently complex, the system has been widely criticised as being confusing and has created some uncertainty.

Sweden: Summary of Policy Levers Utilised


Landfill Tax

€47 per tonne

Variable charging for Households

Charges based on frequency, weight etc.


Landfill Ban

Bans on waste which are:

  • Combustible
  • Organic

Compulsory sorting of waste by households

To facilitate EPR schemes

Producer Responsibility

EPR Legislation

Statutory targets for waste streams

Information campaigns

Online market

For C&D waste

Research and Development




7.11 Landfill tax was introduced (2000) at SEK 250 (€26) per tonne which increased to the equivalent of €47 per tonne from 2006 ( CEWEP, 2007). This a low-mid tax rate in comparison to other jurisdictions in this review. Hill et al (2002) report that at that time the landfill tax was regarded as being too low to increase recycling rates.

7.12 With regard to household charges, Eunomia (2006) cite a study by Hogg et al (2002). Bjuv in Sweden introduced a weight-based system of variable charging for household waste that resulted in a 20% reduction in the first year and an estimated further reduction of 15% in the second year. The study highlighted that a large part of the change was likely to be due to the introduction of far more comprehensive kerbside services (Eunomia, 2006).


7.13 Landfill bans on combustible (2002) and organic (2005) waste have been adopted in addition to charges.

Producer Responsibility

7.14 The system for EPR in Sweden requires producers to achieve statutory targets for recycling of each waste stream.

7.15 The difficulties with the system of EPR are also apparent (Hill et al, 2002). Producers can decide how to meet targets for recycling and they often choose 'bring' systems which require households to undertake complex sorting of waste e.g. there are at least 11 waste streams and there are three categories of paper. As the variable charging system only saves households the equivalent cost of a soft drink a week if adhered to, it is reported that less households are sorting their waste for reprocessing by producers.

7.16 Sweden's comparatively low population density of 20 inhabitants/km2 may be a factor in producers' preference for 'bring' systems over kerbside collections.

Information campaigns

7.18 Hill et el (2002) report that an online market for construction and demolition has been established to encourage recycling of these materials.