Politicians in both the EU and Norway have agreed targets for switching from a linear economy to a circular economy. By 2025, 55 percent of household waste and similar volumes of industrial waste must be recycled. 65 percent of packaging waste must also be recycled.
“The reality today is that we are a long way from reaching those targets. I’m unsure whether the Norwegian and EU authorities realise what is needed of them if we are to reverse the current consumer trend. In order to switch from a linear economy to a circular economy they need to apply political instruments,” says Svein Kamfjord.
The market cannot solve it alone
KS Bedrift Avfall is made up of municipal waste enterprises from across Norway. They are working to increase the amount of waste that is sorted for recycling and reuse, but they are facing obstacles when trying to sell the materials.
“The authorities cannot demand that we sort and recycle materials if no manufacturer wants to return the materials to the production cycle.” For too long the authorities have said that the market itself will resolve the problem, but the fact is that the market needs help to see the value of recycled materials,” Kamfjord says.
Levies balance out cost differences
Kamfjord is clear that the authorities need to step up with a combination of political initiatives. The producer responsibility scheme needs to be developed further so that manufacturers are given incentives to switch to products designed for recycling, and minimum ratios must be set for incorporating recycled materials.
“The manufacturers’ excuse for not using more recycled materials is that they believe they are too expensive and of the wrong quality. The cost of virgin plastic is lower than the cost of recycled plastic. This is a problem but one that can be solved by introducing a levy to level out the cost difference or by imposing stricter criteria for what the manufacturers are allowed to sell on the market,” says the KS Bedrift Avfall director.
A tried and tested tax model
Infinitum wants to change the existing levy on drinks packaging to a differentiated levy so that plastic bottle manufacturers pay less as the recycled plastic content increases. A levy would even out the cost differences and make it more financially attractive for drinks manufacturers to use recycled packaging.
“The rule could require plastics to contain a certain amount of recycled plastic. The percentage can be increased incrementally. The minimum ratios should be combined with a levy, or a ‘carrot’ whereby the levy is reduced as the recycled plastic content increases. This principle is already in use, including for plastic bottle collection. They are tried and tested approaches, and the authorities do not need to conduct an inquiry into how it would work,” says Kamfjord.
KS Bedrift Avfall is of the view that a materials register is another important measure to help meet the targets for waste reduction and increased recycling. Establishing a register, tightening producer responsibility, content ratios and “good” levies all require the politicians to step up, Kamfjord believes.