Can Malmö's green solutions provide answers to energy and climate crises?

Recycling, green energy, sobriety, what are the recipes in the face of the energy crisis and the climate emergency? Euronews visited the city of Malmö, in Sweden, which is known as a sustainable economy model, to find some answers.

Olof and his wife Yuki are both Industrial Designers, and are proud of the products they grow, in one of the allotments rented by the city of Malmö, in the south of Sweden.

For them, it's a way to preserve the environment by producing part of the food they eat with their two children.

“The global food system’s ambition is to provide everything at any time in any spot around the globe. But when the energy prices go up and when there is insecurity, it's a very unstable system.

It works as long as you fuel it with a lot of fossil fuel, but we should, of course, look at alternative ways of providing ourselves with food.”

In their flat in the city centre, Olof and Yuki also find ways to follow a more sustainable way of life. They try to buy as many products as they can without packaging, and recycle paper, metal, glass, and plastics as well as biowaste, which goes towards biogas production.

Euronews
Olof and his wife Yuki at their allotment - Euronews

Fuel produced from organic waste is what runs most of the city of Malmö's fleet of garbage trucks.

Waste treatment plant

In the waste treatment plant that Euronews visited, more than 600,000 tonnes of waste are treated per year, coming from the area’s 14 municipalities, but also imported from all over Europe.

Transformed into slurry, the organic waste will be converted into fuel in another company. The rest supplies the urban grid with energy.

“We are providing Malmo city for almost 70% of the district heating.

And for energy, for electricity, we produce about 270,000-megawatt hours of electricity during one year."

Ann Nerlund, the Environmental Educator at Sysav, admits that incinerating waste produces carbon dioxide, both biogenic carbon dioxide, and fossil carbon dioxide.

In an effort to combat this, they are trying to work towards removing the plastic from the combustible waste and they are also exploring the possibility of carbon capture and storage.

©valgauriat
Most of Malmö's garbage trucks run on biogas - ©valgauriat

The company organised a presentation of the first automated sorting plant for used textiles in the world, installed on its premises last year.

Sorted by colour and by fibre using optical sensors, some 24,000 tonnes of textile waste can be treated each year and recycled more efficiently by manufacturers in the sector.

A promising technology on a European scale, where some 4 million tonnes of textile waste are burned or dumped into landfills each year.

Cargo Bikes and 560 kilometres of bike lanes

Smart housing, renewable energies, clean transport, the city of Malmö has been exploring all avenues of sustainable economy since the 1970s oil crisis.

A philosophy that has shaped the daily life of the inhabitants. A cargo bike is a popular means of transport in Malmö, which has 560 kilometres of bike lanes.

In fact, bicycles represent more than a quarter of urban traffic in this city of some 340,000 inhabitants.

Valerie Gauriat
Bikes represent a quarter of urban trafic in Malmö - Valerie Gauriat

65 percent of the city's buses run on electricity, and the rest on biogas. The aim is for the whole fleet to be all-electric by 2030.

Swedish green consciousness is also on the menu at Spill, a trendy restaurant in a famous eco-district of Malmö. Here, the two daily dishes are made exclusively with waste and leftovers. According to the United Nations, more than a billion tonnes of food, a third of the food produced for human consumption, is discarded each year around the world.

The founder of the restaurant, Erik Andersson Mohlin, a former two-star chef in the Michelin Guide, is waging a war against food waste. And his restaurant is proving to be hugely popular with the consumers, 220 - 300 tables are served each day.

“For us, it's to show the problem. Today we produce too much food, but we don't take care of it. And we don't use everything we produce. We're not the solution, but the solution is that we need to change the system."

40 percent energy reduction in Malmö

Over the past 30 years, policies in Malmö have helped reduce energy consumption by 40 percent, but the city is not immune to the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy prices.

Indexed to European market prices, and due to a decrease in local resources, they have quadrupled since the start of the year.

Jonas Kamleh is a Senior Strategist For Climate & Energy Transition, City Of Malmö, “_On a yearly basis, we have a massive overproduction of electricity in Sweden.__So we export._What happens right now is that we cannot produce enough energy to both cover our own energy consumption and what we can export to Europe, because the need is so large on the European markets."

Euronews
Spill restaurant that only serves meals cooked with leftover food - Euronews

Energy sobriety is unavoidable in Sweden as it is elsewhere. For Olof and Yuki, it’s the only possible option.

"The whole world economy is fueled by 85% fossil fuel.” Says Olof. “And basically what we’re doing now, is that we want to replace that 85% with something else. _Most of the so-called alternatives, solar, wind, are also heavily embedded in the extractive economy._I think the way forward is to drastically reduce our energy use and energy consumption. As long as we don't accept that we need to change our lifestyle, it's not going to be possible."