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Call for Nordic forum on plastic in the circular economy

The untapped potential for recycling and reusing plastic in the Nordic Region is huge, and the countries should set up a forum to discuss ways of making plastic sustainable and promoting the circular economy, according to a new report by Tine Sundtoft, the former Norwegian climate, and environment minister.

The untapped potential for recycling and reusing plastic in the Nordic Region is huge, and the countries should set up a forum to discuss ways of making plastic sustainable and promoting the circular economy, according to a new report by Tine Sundtoft, the former Norwegian climate, and environment minister.

According to the report “The Nordic countries in the green transition – more than just neighbours“, the Nordic countries all have relatively low levels of plastic recycling, with 700 000 tonnes per annum used as fuel or sent to landfill within the region.

The report was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate and is the result of more than 120 discussions Tine Sundtoft held with ministers, MPs, civil servants, scientists and environmental organisations throughout the Nordic Region and beyond.

According to Sundtoft, plastic should be a higher priority during the transition from the linear to the circular economy, and she is calling for closer coordination between the Nordic countries on generating knowledge, comparing experiences and introducing tangible measures to address the issues.

A dialogue forum to coordinate the good work already being done would also provide valuable input into the process of developing policies at European level.

More effort needs to be put into product design, including choice of materials, so that products last longer and are recyclable when they do wear out or break. The markets for recycled plastic also need to be developed, said Tine Sundtoft.

Toxin-free value chains

According to the former minister, whose report presents twelve strategic proposals for Nordic synergies in the environment and climate sector, a dialogue and coordination forum would help generate transparency about aspects of value chains such as the choice of materials and additives, including hazardous chemicals.

The target should be to make all use of plastic circular and toxin-free. A toxin-free life cycle would, in turn, involve replacing problematic substances with non-hazardous ones in all recyclable materials, Sundtoft explained.

Plastic has been high on the Nordic agenda for several years, for instance via the Nordic programme to reduce the environmental impact of plastic (2017-2018). According to the report, the proposed forum would give this work greater impact by launching joint research projects when needed, building capacity, developing financial instruments and encouraging communication with key stakeholders.

The Nordic countries have shown the way on climate and environment solutions. We have a real opportunity to generate added Nordic value that will benefit the rest of the world in this field, Tine Sundtoft concluded.

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