Recycling in Sweden is Serious Business

Color coded recycle bins in Sweden

When you picture Sweden in your mind, what do you see? Apart from the delicious vegan food, most likely Sweden's natural beauty with forests stretching into infinity, interspersed with brilliantly shimmering lakes and meandering rivers. Sweden is majestically beautiful and the Swedes are very proud of it. It may come as no surprise that they will do all they can to keep it that way. Sweden's cities and countrysides are virtually waste-less. Recycling your own refuse is a top priority. As you will read below, recycling in Sweden is serious business.

What is recycled?

Most 'developed' countries have one scheme or another in place to recycle waste, so these materials don't end up in a landfill. Chances are, a company collects the recyclables directly from your home or you bring it to a special depot. It is pretty simple, really. The Swedes, however, have taken recycling to a whole new level. Just take a look at the sorting guide below. This one is for Lessebo County in Småland.

Sorting instructions for the recycle bins

Although methods of recycling, may vary, each Swedish county (lan) has some type of recycling scheme. As you can see, things can get complicated pretty quickly here. You have to take care to separate 10 different types of waste, ranging from food waste to batteries. Luckily this guide comes with detailed instructions. You better read it carefully a couple of times, because you don't to be caught putting something in the wrong bin!

Reuse Reduce Recycle

It's definitely commendable that all these waste types are separated and recycled, but how does that actually work in practice? If you live in Lessebo County in Småland, you will receive (pay for) two huge wheelie bins.

Two huge recycling bins for each household

Each bin has two large compartments for bigger items, for instance, residual waste and food waste. Inside these compartments are suspended compartments for other waste types. The compartments can be emptied separately on collection day. The light bulbs and batteries go into a little container with two compartments that are hooked to the front of a bin. Pretty smart system, huh? Recycling in Sweden is made easy and convenient.
To make things a bit more foolproof, all waste types and containers are color-coded. Just match up the colors and dump it in the bin!

How you separate all the waste types inside your house is up to you. Most people opt for a combined collection bin under the sink.


Not all counties in Sweden offer these sophisticated systems for collection. However, all larger villages and towns have at least one återvinningscentral (recycle center). These are usually situated at the edge of town, or next to a large supermarket and consist of a number of containers. Like the one you see in the featured image of this article.
In larger towns and cities you will find an even larger type of återvinning where you can bring any type of recycling and trash. At these larger drive-in types of places, you will find huge containers where you can dump all your stuff. Your old stuff is divided into over 28 collection containers, which take anything from household waste to building materials.

A recycling depot map, for all kinds of recling materials

Some of the more obscure recyclables

  • Textiles
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Window frames
  • Ceramics and insulation material
  • Disused electronics
  • Items that can be re-used

The first time I used one of these larger recycle centers I realized that I should have done the separating before I tossed everything in the trailer in a big pile. 😉 That would have saved me considerable time at the återvinning.

Recycling in Sweden is serious business. And remember: your recycling and separation begins at home. With a little practice, you will soon be a recycling pro!

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