When I first came to Sweden in the early 90s I visited a friend in his apartment block in Stockholm. As we walked up the stairs a woman emerged from her apartment, walked across the landing and opened what looked like a submarine hatch in the wall. She then deposited a bag of rubbish through the hole and returned to her flat, wishing us a cheery “God kväll!”
I was more than a little intrigued. My friend explained that this was a rubbish disposal system. The crafty Swedes had designed a system that obviated the need for householders in apartment blocks to traipse down flights of stairs with their rubbish. Nor did they need to go outside in the Arctic chill of a Stockholm winter night. Instead, the rubbish was dropped via hatches into tubes that transported the bagged-up detritus to the basement with the help of our old friend gravity. (I also remember speculating at the time what else the mischievous might drop into the system, but let’s leave that to one side for now).
When I returned to Sweden in 2007 I found that many aspects of life here had undergone a rapid progression to middle age. The rubbish system was no different. Now we have the super-green version, powered by hydraulics. This system is built into new housing developments and comprises separate systems for different kinds of waste – for example metals, cardboard and food waste – allowing the separated rubbish to travel via underground pipes to a single collection point away from the housing development. This reduces the need for the bin lorry to chug around the housing development, cutting this process by 90%. This in turn leads to fewer traffic jams, less vehicle noise and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The road traffic environment around people’s homes is safer. And as the system is hermetically sealed it avoids pests and other nasties as well as the noxious odours redolent from our familiar local bins.
I suspect that if we’re to crack the green code we need to make it simple for people to use. And this is simple. We also need to find neat ideas that are green – yes – but that also deliver improvements in our lives and livelihoods. So this is a system that really sucks, but in a good way. Check out Envac.