Report shows how Norway can lead the way towards a low-emissions, zero-waste circular plastic economy
If urgent measures are not taken, the amount of plastic waste will double towards 2040. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to reduce it.
27 Mar 2023

Handelens Miljøfond (Norwegian Retailer’s Environment Fund) is Norway’s largest private environmental fund, and supports projects that reduce plastic pollution, increase plastic recycling, and reduce the consumption of plastic bags. They’ve now joined forces with Norwegian communities and experts and sustainability advisory Systemiq for a study of long-life plastics in Norway, looking closely at plastics in construction, textiles, renewable energy, vehicles, and fisheries and aquaculture. The report, Achieving circularity for durable plastics – A low emissions circular plastics economy in Norway, describes how the country’s handling of plastics will affect its ability to meet the climate goals in the Paris Agreement. If urgent measures are not taken, the amount of plastic waste will double towards 2040, and most of it will be sent for incineration. Fortunately, the report also describes measures to reduce the amount of plastic, increase recycling, and reduce CO2 emissions in line with global commitments.

— It provides a comprehensive analysis of Norway’s plastic system and lays out a pathway for transitioning towards a low-emissions, zero-waste circular plastic economy by 2040, says Cecilie Lind, CEO, Handelens Miljøfond. The report is a synthesis of two studies: Achieving Circularity for Single-Use Plastics and Achieving Circularity for Durable Plastics, covering about 80% of Norway’s plastic consumption.

Circularity Interventions from the report.

Which are the key takeaways?

— They reveal that the current trajectory of the Norwegian Plastic System is misaligned with national circularity ambitions and climate targets. However, the system can achieve 70% circularity by 2040, reducing emissions by 32%, with ambitious circular interventions along the full value chain. If plastics production changes to renewable energy and feedstock, and CCU (Carbon capture and utilization, Ed’s note) is implemented on incineration, the total system emissions may reduce by 75%. To make this transformation a reality, a shift of capital from fossil-based plastic production and incineration to circular business models is needed, alongside policy making which reduces investment risk and unlocks capital. Furthermore, stakeholders in the Norwegian Plastic System must align behind a shared vision and strategy to address the challenges of high GHG emissions and resource inefficiency, says Lind. She adds:

— We hope that this report will strengthen collaboration along the value chain, guide policymakers, industry leaders, investors, and civil society, and ultimately contribute to achieving a zero-waste circular plastic economy aligned with Norway’s emissions reduction targets.

Cecilie Lind and Peter Goult, Systemiq. Photography: Handelens Miljøfond

The report also states that Norway is the first country to scrutinise such a comprehensive scope of plastic sectors making this one of the most holistic views of a national plastic system ever presented. Is the situation regarding plastics ’better’ in Norway compared to other countries?

— That depends on who you compare us with, and which plastic issues you’re addressing. Some things are good — many things can be better. 

What are the next steps for you and your partners?

— We definitely take note of the findings from the report and will take into account which measures which coincide with our purposes that will have the greatest impact on our plastic consumption and handling, says Lind. We have a grant each year where we donate around 100 MNOK (≈€8,8 Million) to projects working to solve plastic problems. We also work with industry clusters, for example in fisheries and aquaculture and textiles, which will also be important forums for the content of this report.