The majority of Sweden’s cities and municipalities have had systems for collecting food waste for several years. However, while Stockholmers are at the top of the league in producing food and residual waste, they have been in the bottom club regarding food sorting.

From 1 January 2023, it will be mandatory for all households, offices and other businesses in Stockholm city to collect food waste separately. It is already a requirement that restaurants, canteens and other companies with food service must sort out food waste.

Food waste is a vital resource. The best solution is, of course, to eat the food and prevent waste, but the husks and skins are also valuable.

Using resources better

Today, barely 30 per cent of the food waste that Stockholmers create is sorted out to become bio-fertiliser and biogas. Making food sorting compulsory in Stockholm is a step toward using resources better.

In Sweden, the government has postponed requiring all municipalities to provide a system for collecting food waste until 31 December 2023. Stockholm is introducing the requirement earlier following a decision by the city council.

Finally, you might say.

Since the 1990s, more and more Swedish municipalities have introduced food waste collection from households, commercial kitchens, and restaurants – but Stockholm has fallen behind. In 2023 it will be the responsibility of the city’s property owners to ensure that residents and businesses in buildings can sort out food waste. A few exceptions will be made, though: Some multi-dwelling properties where the technical solutions still are not ready will have till 1 July 2024 before the obligation enters into force.

Much to be gained

Forty per cent of what ends up in the bin is food waste. There is much to be gained from recycling it. Here are some calculations from Stockholm Vatten och Avfall, the company responsible for the capital’s waste management.

  • Five kilos of food waste can take a car almost a mile.
  • A family’s potato peelings from six dinners are enough bio-fertiliser to grow potatoes for a bag of crisps for an evening’s Friday fun.
  • The food waste from 3,000 people is enough to run a city bus for a whole year.

Today 256 out of Sweden’s 290 municipalities collect food waste at source to varying degrees, according to Avfall Sverige, Swedish Waste Management. Municipalities that have not yet introduced such systems are often small, for example, in northern Sweden and rural areas where small populations have made the investment too expensive. Long distances and cold weather also make handling more difficult.

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