How to reduce municipal waste – handbook for decision-makers

Sweden has basically already attained what is called ‘zero waste’, i.e. no waste disposed of on rubbish tips. In recent years, less than one per cent of our waste has gone to landfill. Researchers at the University of Borås are in the forefront of efforts to find various ways of turning waste into something usable, such as producing biogas and electricity from meat or vegetable waste.

The international publisher CRC Press is issuing a series of books on “Green Chemistry and Chemical Engineering”, and they contacted Mohammad Taherzadeh, Professor in Bioprocess Technology at the University of Borås, to ask him to write a book on how to reduce landfill.

“Of course we jumped at it,” he says. “It benefits everybody; others can follow our example and reduce their mountains of waste, and Sweden and Borås will attract attention for something we are good at.”

He and Tobias Richards, Professor in Energy Technology at the University of Borås, are the editors of the book. It contains 14 chapters, most of them written by researchers at the University of Borås. Other researchers and lecturers have also contributed.

Tips, inspiration the big picture

“The chapters deal with different aspects of how zero waste can be attained,” says Tobias Richards. “For example, what we have done here in Sweden with laws and regulations concerning waste, how we can encourage private individuals to sort and recycle their waste, what processes can produce biogas from waste, and how paper, fibre and metal recycling can work.”

The book compares different technologies and gives many examples of regulations, methods and working models. The idea is to provide tips and inspiration on ways of working to reduce waste.

“We have also looked at things to consider in production to facilitate recycling, and what can be done with the waste that is already on rubbish tips,” says Mohammad Taherzadeh. “The book ranges over a very wide area, but we have tried to keep up with the very latest research and focus on the future.”

A book everyone should read

Asked who should read the book, his immediate answer is “Everyone!”. It will work well as a textbook for universities and colleges, but many decision-makers in industry and local government could also benefit from reading it.

“It is not primarily meant to be read from cover to cover, but to fill in different pieces of the puzzle, and you can choose to read it in any order you like,” says Mohammad Taherzadeh. “All in all, it provides a good overall picture with many examples of how we work in Sweden, and also from other places around the world.”

The book came out last summer and has had a positive response. One hope is that questions relating to reduced quantities of waste will be discussed more widely in the future.

“We think the time is right and it is very topical,” says Tobias Richards. “For example, resource recovery is part of the circular economy – which is big issue all over Europe. We would like more and more people to see waste as a raw material for new goods, and to look for processes to use waste in sensible ways instead of regarding it as something worthless.”

For more information

Contact the authors Mohammad Taherzadeh or Tobias Richards

Read more about the Swedish Centre for Resource Recovery.