Bergen, Norway, legislation graph, Toralf Igesund, wasteless future, waste legislation, regullation, history of waste

The evolution of waste management legislation in Norway

Today, we will continue with one more interesting post by Toralf Igesund. This time he explains how the complexity and amount of waste related legislation follows the consumption growth. I like this idea and definitely it deserves a deeper thought. Read it carefully…

The most important goal is to reduce consumption, which leads to waste, not more recycling.

In my previous blogpost I reflected over how the waste curve (waste per person/ year) reflects the changes our society has gone through in the last century. My point of view is Bergen, Norway, but every country has gone through similar transitions.

The waste curve shows how little waste our grandfathers and –mothers produced. My previous blog mentioned that new medical understanding in the 1850ies led to the Norwegian Health Act (1860).This led to collection of latrine, installation of water systems and collection of waste in order to reduce health problems. In Bergen only 14 kg waste was collected per person and year in 1881. This increased very slowly to 50 kg/year in 1960. After WW2, the amount of waste increased rapidly, due to changes in the society. Norway changed from a commodity economy based on farming, fisheries and timber. Industrialization took place in cities, farmers left the countryside and women left the home for work in factories or service jobs. Rivers and waterfalls were harnessed and hydropower plants produced the new electrical energy. Factories grew up close to the power plants, and new towns around it.

Pollution of air and water had serious impact on environment and health. Consciousness of environmental problems started to grow in the 1970ies and led to the Norwegian Environment pollution Act (1982). This act stated several important principles: Pollution is forbidden, unless you are allowed to do so by the state. The polluter shall pay, and municipalities are responsible for household waste.

The Economic growth continued and the increased consumption resulted in more waste every year. EUs Waste framework directive, landfill directive, Packaging directive etc. began to influence Norwegian waste legislation in the 1980ies. The new (Rio-conference 1992) recognized effect of methane as a greenhouse gas (GHG) led to a landfill ban in the1990ies.

Waste separation and recycling started in the 1980ies, and was extended to keep up with the still growing waste curve. But it is very clear that the global consequences of the ever-increasing consumption of recourses are not sustainable. EU has recognized that Europe has few natural resources and depend on imports from other continents. Changing our economic structures to a more sustainable system, a circular economy is now on its way. EU plan to reduce our ecological footprint, reduce climate emissions and create more jobs.

I told this very simplified history of waste legislation to make this simple point: Todays very detailed and complex waste legislation is developed as a reflection of the massive and complex problems created by our massive consumption. If we had kept our consumption on the level after WW2, there would be no need for a Circular economy package. The most important goal is to reduce consumption, which leads to waste, not more recycling. The difficult task is to do so while keeping up the economy, living standards, jobs and our environment.”

Few words about Toralf Igesund

He works as the head of planning department at BIR AS in Bergen, Norway www.bir.no. He has studied civil and environmental engineering from University of NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

Experience: 24 years in BIR, planning and projects with public waste management, 10 years consulting. Experience from Nordic countries, Africa, Ex Jugoslavia. Activities: several positions in Avfall Norge working groups, leader of Avfall Norge International Network – Balkan, member of Eurocities WG Waste , board member in several companies.

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