The environmental competence center, ÅRIM, has now undertaken a project to reduce waste and increase recycling in households around Ålesund.
The Environmental Directorate in Norway has suggested implementing demands to all municipalities as well as business actors to both sort and reuse material from food and plastic waste. This demand is founded in the EU-goal that states that household waste is to be reduced 50% by 2020. This demand will lead to reduced climate emissions, reduced energy-use and other positive environmental effects both in Norway and other countries.
12 municipalities in and around Ålesund co-own the company ÅRIM, an environmental competence center. The main objective of the company is to implement statutory obligations for household waste and sludge in the region, as well as to raise awareness and increase knowledge of the environment, recycling and waste handling among all the inhabitants in the region.
The implementation of the new recycling initiative for all 12 municipalities is scheduled to take about 2 years and started the Fall of 2017. This process will continue successively in one or two municipalities at a time until all municipalities have the new waste-solution in place in Spring 2019.
The project’s major emphasis is communicating the importance of reducing waste itself, not only the importance of recycling. As such, raising awareness is a key part of the project. Reducing food waste is considered to generate the highest environmental effect of all recycling initiatives.
Waste services in Norway are user financed and based on full cost principle, meaning each household is required to pay for their services. Regarding this scale-up, the additional cost per household is 150 NOK pr. yr. In this region there are 37,000 households with the avg. fee of 2500 NOK pr. yr.
Evidence of success
Although the initiative began last Fall, ÅRIM has already experienced a waste reduction of 4,6 kg pr. inhabitant and collected 37 tons of food waste in 2017. This indicates a yearly recycling rate of 54 kg food waste pr. inhabitant, 18 kg less than the Norwegian yearly average of 72 kr. pr. inhabitant. Being the first month of food waste recycling, the results are promising as the household recycling rate is expected to increase with learning over time.
In the initiation of this project, it has been challenging to get political agreement and commitment towards these new goals. In the further implementation of the project, the success of the project is clearly dependent on the commitment and attitude among the users in the region.
Potential for learning or transfer
There is no competition among waste handling services in Norway. Services are user financed, making it important that all initiatives meet both government and consumer needs and concerns, while working efficiently. If operation costs go up, so too does the subscription cost of customers, and vice versa. It is therefore essential that communication and awareness raising takes place among both consumers and politicians for acceptance of the new waste initiatives.
Among the different waste handling companies across Norway, there is a large degree of collaboration and transparency and they learn from each other. This strengthens the competence overall within this industry. Although a monopolistic system may not be applicable to all countries, the collaboration between companies is a good example of the knowledge and ingenuity that can be developed by cooperating to meet regulations while also improving consumer understanding of environmental issues.