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How Sweden is leading in circular flow

Stena Recycling of Sweden and household electronics producer Electrolux have developed a vacuum cleaner made entirely from recycled and reused materials. The plastics and components used come from end-of-life electronic products such as hairdryers, computers and other vacuum cleaners.

According to Electrolux, the project addresses some of today’s key recycling challenges while exploring circularity in household appliances.
More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally every year but less than 12 per cent of this comes from recycled materials. It means manufacturers such as Electrolux have difficulty finding enough high-quality recycled material that is safe and consistent.

Claimed to be among the first in the industry to raise awareness about the global shortage of recycled plastics, Electrolux launched the Vac from the Sea project in 2010. The volume of products containing recycled material has since increased across the industry ‘but remains at low levels’, the company has told international media.

Learning project  

To step up the pace, Electrolux is working with Stena Recycling in a ‘Circular Initiative’ with the goal of making the market for recycled plastics function as well as for virgin materials. The first concrete result is the ‘visionary’ vacuum cleaner, a prototype developed to explore circularity in household appliances.

“This project has highlighted many of the considerations we take into account as we seek to become more circular,” Electrolux head of sustainability Henrik Sundström explained.

“From product design and material use to new business models, there are regulatory requirements as well as quality and safety questions that need to be addressed. We have to strike a good balance in increasing the amount of reused and recycled materials when making products that are optimised for further recycling at the end of life.”

‘We have the know-how’

Stena Recycling collected the end-of-life products needed for the project from Scandinavian households.

Ceo Kristofer Sundsgård believes Swedish industry has all the right conditions to be a pioneer in circular flows. “We have the know-how, we have the technically advanced processing plants needed and we have companies willing to take the lead in circular production,” he argues.

“It’s a crucial step towards a future where circular materials will play a significant role in manufacturing. Through the Circular Initiative we provide our expertise when collaborating with our partners to create world-leading circular solutions.” Sundsgård added.