+
upworthy
Heroes

Sweden has a weird but awesome problem: They're running out of trash.

Garbage is a perennial problem, but Sweden's found a way to put their garbage to work.

I'm always a little surprised by how quickly my trash can fills up.

Unfortunately, this is a common situation. According to Duke University's Center for Sustainability & Commerce, the average American creates 4.3 pounds of waste a day. Nationwide, that's 220 million tons of trash per year! And about 55% of that ends up in landfills.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.


Landfills can be a problem, too: Contaminants can leach into groundwater, and landfills produce about 22% of our methane emissions (methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change), according to the Duke center. Granted, newer ones are much better and come with things like liners and gas collectors, but we're still filling them up pretty quickly.

Sweden doesn't have this problem, though.

The Swedes figured out something important: You don't have to dump trash in a landfill. You can put that garbage to work instead.

Inside a waste-to-energy plant in Sweden. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

Sweden built 32 waste-to-energy plants that burn garbage, providing heat and electricity to surrounding towns. According to the Swedish government, the plants heat about 810,000 homes and provide electricity to 250,000 more. That must be nice, considering Sweden can get pretty chilly during the winter.

But at the same time, Sweden's also really good at keeping things out of the trash in the first place. They just straight-up recycle about half their stuff. There are special trucks that pick up used electronics, and even the stuff sent to the plants get sorted first.

A recycling center in Sweden. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

All of this has led to a funny problem: Right now, Sweden doesn't have enough trash.

They're actually importing trash from other countries — about 800,000 tons of it in 2014. And the other countries are paying Sweden to take the garbage off their hands, so ... win-win.

It's not piles of money, but it might be just as good. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

Of course, there's some nuance here. The waste plants are burning stuff, after all, so it does produce some carbon dioxide and pollution, but the plants are designed to minimize this. There's also the argument that we should be focusing more on reducing our consumption in the first place instead of trying to deal with the collateral.

There could be some point in the future where nobody has trash to burn. Still, Sweden says they've got that version of the future covered: They'll switch to biofuels.

So there are still potential snags, but this is a problem that would be kind of great for every country to have.

By the way, America hasn't exactly been slouching when it comes to waste-to-energy plants, which is good news. As of 2014, we had 84 of them, according to the Energy Recovery Council. We're 33 times larger than Sweden, and we only recycle about a third of our garbage (compared to Sweden's about half), so maybe we shouldn't get cocky just yet. But still, we're on our way.

Garbage is a serious problem, and there isn't always going to be an easy solution.

But programs like this show how a little smart thinking can put our problems to work.

@racheleehiggins/TikTok

Want out of a relationship rut? The Three hour night might be the perfect solution.

Almost every long term relationship suffers from a rut eventually. That goes especially for married partners who become parents and have the added responsibility of raising kids. Maintaining a connection is hard enough in this busy, fast paced world. Top it off with making sure kids are awake, dressed, entertained, well fed, oh yeah, and alive…and you best believe all you have energy for at the end of the day is sitting on the couch barely making it through one episode on Netflix.

And yet, we know how important it is to maintain a connection with our spouses. Many of us just don’t know how to make that happen while juggling a million other things.

According to one mom, a “three-hour night” could be just the thing to tick off multiple boxes on the to-do list while rekindling romance at the same time. Talk about the ultimate marriage hack.

Keep ReadingShow less

It's time to rethink the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait to have children

Women are having children well past 40 but are considered "geriatric" after 35.

Rethinking the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait for kids

In more recent decades, women have started to delay having children or decide to not have them at all. Society has been taught that women must have children when they're in their 20s because that's when fertility is highest. Unfortunately it's true that fertility declines as women age, but pregnancy is still possible up until menopause.

Even if someone previously didn't want children, with technology they have the option to change their minds much later in life. Many women have taken to the idea of having more life and career experience before brining about children. But the language around pregnancy in women over 35 is still pretty offensive.

This now more common phenomenon of waiting until later in life to have children is medically called a geriatric pregnancy, though some doctors sugar coat it by calling it "advanced maternal age." Neither of these terms feels indicative of a warm feeling you're expected to experience while growing a child. BBC's The Global Story podcast blows through some pretty unfortunate misconceptions and truths about pregnancy after 35 in an interview with the Head of Reproductive Science and Sociology Group, UCL.

Keep ReadingShow less

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

Watching kids do lightning fast mental math is both mesmerizing and mind-blowing

Their finger twitching looks random, but WOW is it impressive.

Digamarthi Sri Ramakanth/Wikimedia Commons

2003 UCMAS National Abacus & Mental Arithmetic Competition

In the age of calculators and smartphones, it's become less necessary to do math in your head than it used to be, but that doesn't mean mental math is useless. Knowing how to calculate in your head can be handy, and if you're lucky enough to learn mental abacus skills from a young age, it can be wicked fast as well.

Video of students demonstrating how quickly they can calculate numbers in their head are blowing people's minds, as the method is completely foreign for many of us. The use of a physical abacus isn't generally taught in the United States, other than perhaps a basic introduction to how it works. But precious few of us ever get to see how the ancient counter gets used for mental math.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Kristen Wiig plays a cult leader pilates coach in an epic 'SNL' return

Kristen Wiig made an epic return to “Saturday Night Live” this week

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

A creepy slowed down version of Megan Thee Stallion's "Body" was a fabulous touch.

Kristen Wiig made an epic return to “Saturday Night Live” this week, and along with bringing back her iconic “Aunt Linda” character, she might have created a whole new fan favorite.

In a horror trailer reminiscent of an A24 film, Chloe Fineman and Molly Kearney work up the courage to take their first pilates class. They enter an eerily dark purple room where Wiig, playing a cult-leader Pilates instructor with a fondness for weird pet names, gives them the scariest workout of their life.

Keep ReadingShow less

A man in a red shirt has an epiphany and Mel Robbins delivers a TED Talk.

It’s a wonder that humans can get anything done because we are hard-wired to procrastinate. Whenever we consider performing a task that may be boring, unpleasant, or stressful, the brain automatically sends a signal that says why not do it “later” or “tomorrow”?

Humans are natural-born procrastinators because our old brain wants to protect us from potential danger or discomfort. So, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, our brain springs into action and suggests we do it later.

While some people are able to override this reaction, many cannot and researchers believe that around 20% are chronic procrastinators.

As we all know, this knee-jerk reaction can cause all sorts of troubles. It can make it a lot harder to be a good employee, take care of domestic responsibilities, or ensure our school work is done on time. According to Psychological Science, chronic procrastinators have higher levels of anxiety and often have inadequate retirement savings.

Keep ReadingShow less