My recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden included a stop at Hammarby Sjostad, a leading international example of “The Sustainable City” and a showcase for the Swedish approach to sustainable development.
Previously an old industrial and harbor area, this modern community now features beautiful architecture, constructed from sustainable materials, and punctuated by stunning natural features including parks and waterways. Most notably, the district has used an integrated approach to city planning – its own “eco-cycle” – contemplating and implementing environmentally sustainable approaches to the energy, waste management, as well as water and sewage.
In this Hammarby model, “waste” is not considered a problem, but rather a resource. A district heating and electricity system for the community is powered by combustible waste and biofuels. Sludge and mulch from the sewage and food waste is used to generate biogas, which is then used to fuel vehicles – and the biodegraded sludge is subsequently used as fertilizer. Both district heating and cooling are produced by using the purified wastewater.
All materials that can be recycled are sent to recycling, including hazardous waste and electrical waste where possible. As a result of this very intensive and thoughtful use of resources, very little waste is sent to landfill.
The three largest streams of normal waste (household waste, food waste, and paper) are source separated and disposed of in special refuse chutes located either inside or adjacent to the building. These vacuum collection systems use underground pipes to carry the waste away to centralized collection stations where an automated system loads collection containers onto trucks – with a resultant decrease in required labour, noise, air pollution, and neighbourhood traffic.
Smart transportation is another part of the suite of solutions offered at Hammarby. A light rail system runs through the centre of the community, with bus routes providing direct access into Stockholm City. Three carpools offer participants (about 1,000 of the town’s 19,000 current residents) access to one of 46 available cars.
Recreational trails, schools, libraries, theatre and other cultural amenities round out the community’s offerings.
The result of all these initiatives is a clean, attractive, sustainable community for those who live, work, and visit there.