Trash is not something many people want or collect.  However, Sweden imports waste from other countries and is now running into the problem that there is just not enough trash.  Sweden imports trash to turn into electricity and power, and because of their efficiency in converting trash to power and need for more waste, Sweden is now looking to other countries, asking the question…Can we have your trash?

Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden has recently begun importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries.  Sweden creates energy for around 250,000 homes and powers one-fifth of the district heating system.   –The Two Way

Trash in Guatemala

Can We Have Your Trash?

As highlighted in 0ur first film, Reparando, Guatemala is home to one of the largest garbage dumps in Latin America.  Twenty-four football fields can fit inside the walls of the Guatemala City Dump.  1,500 tons of trash are delivered each day, that is enough garbage to fill 35 Boeing 737 planes.  The dump provides a source of income for a documented 11,000 workers, and many other undocumented workers.

Can We Have Your Trash?Guatemala has a different and equally as unique way of recycling their trash from the way Sweden has engineered.  During my 7-month stay I got to know the Guatemalan recycling process a little better.  Not only do people work in the Guatemala City Dump scavenging through waste when it arrives, but people accompany the trash along the entire route from the second something is thrown in the trash until it reaches the Guatemala City Dump.

Can We Have Your Trash?One day I visited La Terminal, an area bustling with buses and people coming and going and a wide variety of stores selling everything from fruit to handmade charcoal.  La Terminal is also home to many people living in extreme poverty.  We visited an area where waste from the stores and people was dumped.  I saw people quickly scavenging through the waste as it was dumped to find fruits and vegetables that could still be eaten.  My heart broke for these people who didn’t have the means to otherwise obtain fruits and vegetables.

Can We Have Your Trash?Considering the amount of garbage a country can produce, you have to be very creative in ways to cut down national waste.  Guatemala is no exception.  While in Guatemala, I have seen very innovative and impressive ways of recycling waste.  One of the most commonly used recycled products is plastic bottles.  Our partner organization, Lemonade International recently implemented the installation of solar lightbulbs made of recycled soda bottles in homes in La Limonada.  (Click here for the full story.)  Many other non-profit organizations have used plastic bottles to build walls for schools across Guatemala. (Click here for more information.)

Here in the United States, we recycle but not as efficiently as some other countries.  In the United States, where the EPA says 250 million tons of trash was generated in 2010 alone, only about 34 percent was recycled.  Looks like we should be taking notes!  In order to make a difference, each country world-wide must do their part.  Even though Sweden and Guatemala have well established methods for recycling, “We live in a world where nearly 70 percent of deep sea Arctic creatures are in contact with human trash like plastic bags and beer bottles.” – The Two Way

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