President's Blog

4 Jul 2017 10:46 Age: 2 yrs

Guest Blog | Nancy Strand on Norway's Circular Ambition

Category: ISWA News, ISWA BLOG


Nancy Strand is currently the managing director of Avfall Norge - the Waste Management Association of Norway, ISWA's National Member. Here Nancy Strand discusses Norway's impressive transition from a fossil-fuel driven economy towards a circular and greener future.

The Norwegian industry, waste management and trade sectors are positioning themselves to take a leap into a more sustainable, circular future. With a new government white paper on circular economy leaving much to be desired, economic (does she mean private sector?)sectors are ready to pick up the mantle.


After depending on oil and gas for half a century – Norway is  moving back to sustainable bio economy


Situated in Northern Europe, Norway is by and large a sparsely populated country totalling just above 5.2 million inhabitants. Historically poor, but rich in resources, Norway experienced a significant turn of events after scientists discovered the Ekofisk oil fieldin 1969, the world’s largest at the time. Excellent planning ensured that we escaped the resource curse, and built an oil industry that has since laid the foundations for the Norwegian welfare state.


But the age of fossil fuels is ending, and Norway must transition to a greener, more diverse economy. This is our environmental responsibility, but also a necessity to ensure future income. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, green growth and sustainable jobs are key to a sustainable economy. To this we might add resource efficiency, which is not yet recognised as equally important. 


Norwegian waste management industry´s roadmap to a circular economy

In 2016 Avfall Norge (Waste Management Association in Norway) together with representatives from the waste management industry formulated recommendations on how to ensure the circular economy transition. The resulting Roadmap to a Circular Economy offered three specific strategies aimed at policy makers, producers, and the waste management industry itself.


The roadmap stated that the most important contribution from the waste management and recycling sector is to cooperate both within the industry and across value chains. This collaboration is necessary to establish and share knowledge for optimal recovery of the materials put on the market. This works both ways – the waste management sector can work with producers to find innovative ways to use recovered materials, and in turn boost their competitiveness.


This is also why Avfall Norge is now open to both public and private waste management businesses as well as municipalities, and our organisation is welcoming projects and partnership with companies and actors outside the traditional waste management sector. An important part of the work on circular economy is collaboration with other sectors such as agriculture, transport, building and construction.


We need the government to actively drive and encourage the circular economy.  It establishes standards, acts as a facilitator and driver of change, and ensures a level playing field on the market. The roadmap recommended that the Government creates a clear national strategy for resource efficiency which includes goals for waste minimization, reuse and material recovery, as well as a distinct framework for the economic actors. The strategy must of course be rooted in the EU’s Circular Economy Package.


Still, although recently presenting a new white paper on waste and circular economy, the Norwegian government calls for more studies, not new policies and specific measures. Mandatory waste sorting from household and commercial sector are not yet proposed, but specific measures such as these will be subject to further studies.


Opportunities in the new circular economy


The circular economy presents not only the waste management and recycling industries with an unprecedented opportunity, but could also be the driving force for a sustainable economy.


We are witnessing the realisation of this concept. Green jobs and business are appearing at an immense rate. Industries can no longer afford to let their by-products out of their value chain without thinking strategically about its value. Sometimes this innovation comes from within the production line; using by-products from one process as raw materials for another, and sometimes an outsider steps in, and for instance creates feed for livestock from salmon.


The trade sector is another example, investigating how reuse, repair and new business models may change consumer patterns but also create new business opportunities. Companies and municipalities introduce digital solutions at a rapid speed, and create a momentum of change.


We are a growing industry, partly because of growing waste amounts, partly because have expanded our services from landfills to sophisticated material recovery. But this trajectory is far from certain in the years ahead if we take current conditions as given. The industry should adjust to a circular reality, and truly envision their role in a circular economy. Should we offer additional services? Easier collection for the consumer? Standardise our products? These are the foundations for successfully changing along with the green societal transition.


The Norwegian approach is collaboration. As a transparent society with high trust in authorities as well as business sector, we move forward realizing that results only can be made by working together, across the value chains as well as innovative new start-ups. 


See here more information about Avfall Norge and their work. (In English)