Norway to double plastics recovery rate

1998 seen as key year for meeting national targets for plastics packaging recovery

1998 is set to be a decisive year in the race to meet Norwegian government targets for the routine recovery of at least 80 per cent of the nation's annual production (100,000 tonnes, or about 20kg per capita) of plastic packaging waste by the year 2000.

Describing the targets as "high but realistic," Helge Dieset of Plastretur, a company owned and operated by the plastics manufacturing and user industries, told ENDS Daily today. "Our aim is to have 30 per cent material recycling and 50 per cent incineration for electricity and district heating by then," he said. Of 42,000 tonnes recovered last year and taken to 75 special depots, 36,000 tonnes were incinerated and 6,000 recycled, he added.

Yesterday, Mr Dieset told the national newspaper Dagsavisen Arbeiderbladet: "Environmentally speaking, burning plastic for energy this way is not ideal; but when plastic replaces "carbon" fuels, there is an environmental gain." He cited a paper mill at Sande, near the industrial city of Drammen, as an example of a successful changeover from "carbon" to plastic fuel.

This year's goal is to involve 80 of Norway's 454 municipalities in the recovery scheme, where possible in conjunction with office and household wastepaper collections, which are already well organised throughout the country. The participating local authorities, including Oslo, would account for roughly half the population.

The recovery programme has grown rapidly since 1994, when a budgetary proposal for an environmental tax of NKr1 (Ecu0.12) per packaging unit was presented to the parliament. The suggestion alarmed the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), which responded with a pledge to achieve specific goals on a voluntary basis provided the tax was postponed. A new set of agreements was drawn up based on the 1994 EU packaging directive with some additional Norwegian legislation. Norway is not a member of the EU.

Plastretur was set up in 1995. In June 1996, it introduced a fee of NKr1 per kilogram of plastics packaging, on users and on importers of products packed in plastics, to finance its activities.

Pilot projects involving plastic waste recovery have focused on fish farms (3000 tonnes per year) and agriculture, where 66% of the annual total is recovered. Retailers are currently a "special target," according to Plastretur's literature. In the commercial and industrial sector generally, "our policy is to grant the receivers of the waste a guarantee so that they are ensured a viable market for collected and sorted plastics. This guarantee implies that industry and trade can deliver plastics waste free to the waste management companies under contract with Plastretur".

The collection systems are mainly managed by existing waste management authorities and companies.

Follow Up:
Plastretur AS, tel. +47 22 12 17 80.

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