Hello there. It’s me, Marius. Last week was Earth’s week. Here in Växjö we had many event to promote it and I was holding a speech in one of them comparing Sweden and Lithuania regarding recycling. I want to share this speech with you.
I came to Sweden around 10 months ago to be a volunteer through Erasmus+ program in Nätverket SIP. Sadly, after all this time I still can’t speak Swedish, so please forgive me for this. But During my stay a was able to get to know a bit about Swedish culture and environment. Consciously or not I was always comparing everything I saw here with Lithuania. And there is quite a lot of differences. I was surprised by many things.
This is only my personal opinion so please do not accept everything I will say for a fact.
One of the things that surprised me is environment and the mindset of Swedish people regarding it, especially when it comes to recycling. Literally the first thing I noticed when I arrived and just got out of the train in Växjö Station was millions of bicycles and how clean the streets are. Later I saw many beautiful Forests, parks and all kind of green spots. You can find a peace of nature even in city centers. And now when I am thinking about all I can say is: Wow, you guys genuinely care about environment. And it is not just government who cares about that, it is the people in Sweden.
Another surprise, maybe even a challenge that I needed to adapt to, here in Sweden for me was recycling. And I mean it. Back when I was in Lithuania all my life I was throwing everything in one bin and never really cared about it, what happens with my trash and what harm it causes. So you can imagine my reaction when here in Sweden every time I was visiting Swedish person in their home instead of one trash bin I saw recycling station with many bins for different kind of trash. Once I even volunteered in Växjö recycling station where I saw a lot of people coming with their cars just to throw something away in the right container. Honestly I never saw something like this in Lithuania. For you I am guessing this is very natural and you don’t even think about it but for me it was something very new and I think I needed a few months to adapt to this change and start sorting trash.
For you to understand why I was so surprised and why I think that you guys have totally different mindset regarding environment and recycling you need to know the situation in my country, in Lithuania.
This photo (Photo in the beginning) was taken in 2015, so it is not some old photo from the internet. And actually this is my hometown. As you can see there is recycling bins: blue, yellow and green but people still just throws everything in the common containers. Honestly, back in Lithuania I did the same. Majority of people in Lithuania just don’t care about it at all. We don’t understand why we should spend extra time on doing something like sorting when we can just throw everything in the same bin. We were raised like this and lived all our life like this so why change something. I believe that’s how majority feels like. Maybe this mentality is still left in us from occupation times, I don’t know.
And it is not that government doesn’t care. They care and they are trying to make people sort the trash. There are many various campaigns, commercials, all kind of advertisements and places where you can find information about harm of not recycling and so on. They are trying to increase awareness of this issue as much as possible. There are even various projects for youth and kids in primary schools and kinder gardens to teach about recycling. You can find recycling bins pretty much everywhere in the bigger places. In some cities there is even a tax difference between those who recycle and those who don’t.
Gladly all these methods and effort is giving results, little by little. We are moving forward: In 2013 90% of all trash in Lithuania went to landfills, today this number is lowered to 60-70%. That means that 30-40 % of all trash in Lithuania is recycled. I think that is quite good improvement from year 2013. Younger generation is more aware of this situation and they are starting to recycle. I remember when my friend started to sort trash at his home and his parents were confused and asked him questions like: what are you doing and why. So you can sense the difference between generations and mindsets.
In conclusion I think in the last 20 years Lithuania made a huge progress regarding recycling and it keeps getting better and I am very happy about it. But compared with countries like Sweden we still need to learn a lot more and most importantly and hardest to achieve we need to change our mindsets. Because it doesn’t matter what technologies we have and what government is doing, in the end it all depends on each of us what we decide to do with our paper from a candy or an empty pack of chips. So please Sweden keep up your amazing job with recycling and teach more people, like you taught me, how to change our mindsets and start recycling.