Our production and consumption give rise to large amounts of waste. Ecologically sound waste management is therefore an important component of ecocycle policy.
Several of the Swedish environmental quality objectives are associated with products and necessitate the development of a strategy for an environment-oriented product policy if they are to be achieved. Our ecocycling efforts need to be intensified through, for example, better coordination of the measures implemented by various authorities in the areas of product policy and waste management. Products impact the environment across borders. As a result, the Government wants to create a product policy that provides the conditions for an efficient internal market with more trade and lasting protection for human health and the environment.
Sweden should take an active role in the efforts of the European Commission to develop both an integrated product policy and resource use and waste recovery strategies. Work is currently ongoing to develop an environment-oriented product policy within the EU.
Waste is both a resource and an environmental problem
In May 2003, the Swedish Government put forward its bill "A society with non-toxic and resource-efficient ecocycles" (Government Bill 2002/03:117). The bill proposes objectives, strategies and measures to create such a society. Waste is both a resource and an environmental problem; a resource to be utilised and an environmental problem to be minimised. Consumers represent an important target group in waste management policy and the Swedish Government wishes to make it easier for everyone to separate their waste, especially that which is hazardous. Recovering packaging and other waste is a sound principle that should be further developed in line with both Swedish and European waste policy. The volume of waste must be reduced and its danger prevented. Waste management should not be seen purely as a resource issue and an environmental problem, but also as part of the infrastructure.
Extended producer responsibility and reduced volumes of waste
An environment-oriented product policy aims to prevent and reduce the negative impact products have on the environment and on human health during their entire lifecycle. All actors bear a responsibility.
Our economic development is to a large extent founded on the production and consumption of products, which also consume material and energy. Achieving a balance in how we utilise our common resources is crucial to our efforts to create a sustainable society. Achieving many of the environmental quality objectives adopted by the Swedish Riksdag is also part of the work. Our production and consumption give rise to large amounts of waste. Ecologically sound waste management is therefore an important component of our ecocycle policy.
Waste management is a necessary infrastructure which must function well in society. Many new instruments have been adopted in recent years and the commitment of the various actors has also increased considerably. Systems are required that are credible and easily accessible for both producers and consumers. Waste volumes must be reduced if we are to achieve greater ecological sustainability in our waste management. Even at the manufacturing stage, producers must consider the environmental impact of products in a lifecycle perspective. Construction, choice of material and energy consumption during both manufacture and use must be considered.
Furthermore, sustainable ecocycles can only be achieved if a larger proportion of the waste can be reused and recycled. This would save both material and energy, whilst alleviating environmental problems that stem from waste management. Legislation on producer responsibility and a ban on the landfilling of waste are some of the components of the Governments policy in this area.
Government Bill 2002/03:117 extends the producer responsibility for packaging and wastepaper. It is proposed that Swedish municipalities be given greater influence regarding the information and planning of producer responsibility. The deposit system for aluminium cans and PET bottles is also being developed further and will be extended in the long term to cover all plastic and metal packaging for ready-to-drink beverages. The Government is also proposing new interim targets for more biological treatment in order to make better use of nutrients and phosphorus contained in food waste. Reducing hazardous waste is an important part of trying to make waste management more ecologically sustainable. Toxic or otherwise harmful substances must be removed from ecocycles. To this effect, the Government will clarify the responsibility of municipalities for hazardous waste from households. The Government will also place greater requirements on the long-term, deep-rock storage of mercury.