Press release 2015-05-22

New policy instruments for improved plastic waste recycling

policy instruments designed to increase the recycling of plastics in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

The point of departure is a circular economy and is based on the hypothesis that the circular flow of goods and services will be beneficial to all market players. The report was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Recycling rates of plastics are currently relatively low in all Nordic countries — in comparison with several other countries. Plastics tend to be recycled into low-grade products for which there is not much demand on the market, at the same time as Sweden, Denmark and Norway have relatively high incineration rates of waste plastics.

- When, for example, product design determines whether a plastic product is easily recyclable, it is crucial that policy instrument mixes provide the right incentives for producers already at the design stage. Policy instrument research shows that it is possible to achieve this by designing instruments that are linked to product recyclability indicators, says Magnus Hennlock at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

The evaluation report shows that producer responsibility systems and new taxes on production or consumption do not provide adequate incentives for the recycling of plastic when the goal is a circular economy. A combination of economic incentives is required to close the circular loop from production to recycling and new products.

A decision experiment that targeted managers in both the recycling and plastics manufacturing industries also suggests that today there are information gaps in the plastic waste market that weaken incentives to recycle more and achieve a consistent and stable quality of treated waste plastics for recycling.

– The experiment shows that information as an instrument to influence decision making in the market plays a pivotal role in increasing the recycling of plastic waste, and the realization of a circular economy. In a forthcoming project we will collaborate with consumers and decision makers from the industry in an experimental scenario in which we will examine the role information plays, and test the outcomes of new instruments for product design that aim to boost recycling, says Magnus Hennlock.

Read the report, “Economic Policy Instruments for Plastic Waste” here.

For more information, please contact:
Magnus Hennlock E-mail: magnus.hennlock@ivl.se