William McGrath, Stockholm Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
Waste reduction and recycling are one of the major issues that faces our generation. Every year we produce roughly 2.12 billion tonnes of municipal waste. In 2014, Ireland accounted for 2.6 million tonnes of this waste. The average Irish household disposes of approx. 1 ton of rubbish annually, 50% of this is either recycled or recovered. Ireland has made significant advances in waste management in recent years, with a continued focus on material recycling and energy recovery. Between 2012 -2014 Ireland increased it municipal waste recovery from 59% to 79%. Another key milestone in Ireland’s road to becoming a more environmentally friendly nation was its reduction in the use of Landfills as a form of waste disposal, as set out in the Landfill directives by the EU. Currently, Ireland has only 5 operational Landfill facilities, compared to the 18 facilities that were in operation in 2012.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which outlines goals and targets for each member country to achieve in order to reach a more sustainable environment for future generations. One model that Ireland can learn from is the Swedish model of waste management.
Sweden has for a long time, been at the forefront of waste reduction and recycling. Sweden boasts an impressive record when it comes to waste management, with over 99% of household waste being either recovered or converted into energy. Sweden’s waste management strategy has become so efficient, that they have even started to import waste from different countries around Europe including Ireland. The Swedish Recycling Revolution, started way back in the 1980s when the government recognized that pollution and waste production were having a major impact on the environment. The first initiative that Sweden introduced was the “Panta Scheme”. The Panta Scheme is essentially a plastic bottle & Aluminium can recycling scheme, where a consumer pays a 1Kr (10c) deposit on a can or bottle, which is then refunded when the empty bottle is returned to a drop-off point available in all major retailers. The scheme has proved very successful through Sweden and has also been picked up in other countries across Europe. There has been recent calls at government level to introduce such a scheme in Ireland, with the ultimate aim of reducing plastic pollution.
Many companies in the Nordics have also got behind the drive for reduced waste. Retailers in Sweden have taken steps to reduce packaging on products, with ICA trialling a new laser labelling process which removes the need for plastic packaging on some products. Coop Supermarket in Denmark has also got rid of metal canned packaging from there product lines, and have now introduced a biodegradable packaging made from paper fibres. Arla Foods, Scandinavia’s largest dairy cooperative have also released new packaging made from sugar-cane bioplastics, which significantly reduces there CO2 emissions by up to 18%. Consumers are now also beginning to see the benefits from the corporate responsibility of retailers as Hemkop, one of the leading retailers in the Swedish market are also trialling a deposit refund scheme for single use plastic bags.
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