If you look at Sweden’s top imports, you wouldn’t find anything too surprising. Petroleum is at the top. Cars and car parts. Computers. It takes a lot to keep a country going, whether you’re Sweden, or Norway, or the United States. Ideally, of course, you import what you need and export what you have in abundance. So it really changes the script when you hear that Sweden is importing garbage from neighboring countries.
Landfills are an old problem. Whether you believe you have the space for one or not, it’s often difficult to find a community willing to become a refuge for refuse. “Not in my back yard” has never been a more accurate complaint than in the ongoing debate over where to put a dump. It leads to arguments between the cities—which have no land and produce massive amounts of trash—and the countryside communities—which have land that they prefer to preserve (otherwise they’d have moved to the city already). It even leads to the occasional garbage barge wondering the coast in search of a home for its fetid cargo.
Europe is no different. They’ve restricted landfill usage heavily. Sweden is advanced in having developed a productive use for their garbage—namely, incinerating it and using the waste heat in homes and businesses. It means they can be a net importer of trash, though, unlike most imports, the cost is born by the countries getting rid of their garbage. It’s better than paying a fine, you see.
It’s an approach private companies could learn from too when they consider how to address the public’s growing concern for sustainability issues. Society changes over time, and when a new issue takes center stage, it is common for firms to raise their arms in defense, to consider how to stave off whatever expense or alteration that issue requires. But in fact these issues of sustainability and environmental balance also present an extraordinary opportunity to flip the script—to take a place on the forefront of environmental awareness and associate a brand with a movement.
That reframes decisions away from the defensive and makes change positive and powerful. We believe Paper Water Bottle presents just such an opportunity for beverage brands—the opportunity to make positive environmental change a genuine part of their story, to increase their presence in the market by appealing to the best in consumers. The rising tide of environmental requirements will be a challenge for many companies. But turning the tide, even learning to surf—that sounds like A Refreshing Alternative.