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Meet up with the boss of the Norwegian waste industry

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Did you know that paper recycling started in Norway as early as the 17th century? As former CEO of Avfall Norge for 7 years, there is nothing Nancy Strand is unwilling to do to find smarter, more efficient, engaging and new waste solutions. At Evolve Arena in April, she`ll give her audience a speech filled with clever words and examples of the interaction between man, environment and technology in circular cities.

Always man in focus

Nancy Strand is considered a visionary leader when it comes to circular economy. Her desire to change the waste and recycling industry came after she started as CEO in Avfall Norge, where she saw great potential and opportunities (from August 2020 Cecilie Lind is the new CEO of Avfall Norge).

– Over the years, many different measures have been tested in Avfall Norge. We have come up with totally new waste ideas – many of them inspired by other industries. Among other things, we’ve had fun experiments in parks putting talking voices in to waste cans to encourage especially children to throw waste in to the cans rather than on the ground.

Working as a team across industries

At Evolve Arena in April, Nancy Strand gives examples on how the Norwegian waste and recycling industry works to create circular cities. She then links that to how Avfall Norge works on building knowledge, collaborating across industries, and digitizing – that is, using data to create effective and customer-friendly waste solutions.

– I believe the audience can learn from our experiences, and I hope they’re left with an impression that the Norwegian waste and recycling industry is an exciting and innovative industry! Today, new, smart technology offers tremendous opportunities, but it can also make people feel alienated and lonely. Data is the new “raw material” and it must be used with caution and respect. Ethical reflections concerning use of personal data are an important part of the development. We must always keep in mind that our goal is to make life better for people, while at the same time creating the transition to sustainable and smart cities.

– An example of new technology is sensor technology, which allows citizens to pay less if they throw less and sort their waste better. The next step may be that you get a micro payment every time you sort out valuable materials or throw e.g. batteries in the right place.

Trends and technology push the waste industry forward

Nancy Strand associates the phrase “Together for a smarter and better society” with a strong connection between people, the environment and technology. To her, human cities means cities that are good places to live and work, and cities that use technology for the best of its citizens. Cities where resources are taken care of, and where solutions that take into account the environment and climate also facilitate personal and social needs.

– In the spring of 2020, Avfall Norge, together with a number of players, introduced a proposal for common waste symbols for Norway and the Nordic region. We hope the initiative will make peoples life more easy. The goal is that people can sort and recycle the same way at home, at their work place, at their cabin and in public spaces.

– Innovations are constantly popping up in the waste industry. Recycled plasterboard from renovation can now e.g. be recycled and used as “new” raw material in the production of new plasterboard. Wood can be sorted and reused in the production of furniture, and we keep an eye out for new logistics solutions that could for instance combine goods transport with waste collection to reduce driving in city centres.
  
– What’s really exciting, is that we`re now getting caterpillars that can eat food waste and through that produce edible proteins. Or, produce biogas, biological fertilizers and greenhouse vegetables like tomatoes based on food waste, livestock manure and waste from the aquaculture industry! New technologies that utilize or capture CO2 and make better use of waste and resources are constantly being developed.

– These measures are all good for both the environment and the economy, and they contribute to increased well-being for ordinary people in urban spaces. This is why the event Evolve Arena is important. We need more meeting places across industries where we can learn from each other and understand each other’s knowledge and thinking. We need to work as a team. Going forward, cities will undoubtedly play a key role in the green transformation.

Biggest game changer happened in 2015

In Norway, recycling of paper can be traced back to the 17th century. To some extent, glass, metal and textiles also had to be reused at the same time. Norways first municipal cleaning was established in Bergen in the late 1800s. Nancy Strand says:

– The transition from waste as a problem to a resource has been gradual. It all really kicked off when the business industry got extended producer responsibility for the waste from, among other things, packaging in the 1990s. Since then, the entire industry has been concerned with recycling. In Norway, we banned landfills of all organic waste in 2009, and ever since, markets for recycled materials have developed both nationally and internationally. The biggest game changer in the waste industry, however, happened in 2015. That’s when EU put “circular economy” on the agenda, and Norwegians adopted the idea that waste management and economic growth is closely linked to each other.

Written by: Ann-Sophie Stene

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