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The Polish parliament targets best practice in sustainable waste management

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A Polish-Norwegian initiative recently brought over 100 people together at the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, for a seminar to discuss the latest trends in waste management.

Last autumn a Polish delegation visited Norway at the invitation of Green Business Norway. Members of the delegation included Janusz Ostapiuk, a deputy minister in the Polish government, and several parliamentarians. The purpose of their trip was to discuss developments in the waste management sector, and to take a closer look at Norwegian technology for centralized waste separation, small-scale energy-from-waste projects, and biogas production from organic waste. The visitors also took the opportunity to learn in detail about the Norwegian deposit scheme for drink cartons and bottles.

Building on the success of the Polish delegation's visit to Norway, Green Business Norway recently organized a waste management seminar at the Sejm in Warsaw, in partnership with the parliamentary committee on the environment and natural resources.

The seminar was a high-level forum bringing together many of Poland's key decision makers in the sector: politicians and government officials, stakeholders (regional governments) and potential customers.

Landfill ban spurred new technology
Pål Spillum, head of the waste and recycling section at the Norwegian Environment Agency, gave a presentation on how legislation can spur the development of sustainable waste management solutions. As a prime example, he cited Norway's ban on landfills:

"Once the ban came into effect, the development of waste-to-energy infrastructure really took off in Norway."

Clarissa Morawski, executive director of the ReLoop Network, spoke about the circular economy and the global challenges associated with growing volumes of packaging waste. She cited examples of deposit schemes for beverage containers, which have helped the environment by facilitating high-quality recycling of large quantities.

Centralized waste separation
Beate Langset, representing Romerike Avfallsforedling IKS (ROAF), an inter-municipal waste management company, described how her organization streamlined its system for optimum efficiency:

"A few years back, ROAF decided to look into switching from a system that required users to separate their household waste at source to a centralized separation system. Advances in technology made it possible for us to sort recyclables centrally."

ROAF's concept has proved a great success in practice, becoming a model for several new recycling plants in Norway. The waste delivered to the plant consists of commingled municipal waste with a separate organics stream. The ROAF plant, the world's first fully automated waste separation plant, uses equipment supplied by Tomra Sorting.

There's gold in them thar organics
Pål Smits from Lindum, a waste management and district energy company owned by the city of Drammen, focused on sustainable solutions for organic waste treatment. Energy and nutrients can be recovered as the waste breaks down. Mr Smits outlined Lindum's concept of a combined biogas and fertilizer plant:

"Organics such as sewage sludge and food waste can be turned into energy and nutrients, creating a closed loop and helping to build a circular, sustainable economy."

Presenting the findings of the Polish-Norwegian "Pom-Biogas" research project, Professor Jan Hupka likewise emphasized the value of organic waste. The project set out to estimate the potential for using organic waste from the Pomerania region to produce biogas.

"Within a 50-kilometre radius of Gdansk alone, households and businesses produce one million tonnes of food waste annually, which could be put to good use. One kilogram of this waste (dry matter) can produce 0.5 cubic metres (500 litres) of biomethane," explained Mr Hupka.

Hans Olav Midtbust from Energos, an energy-from-waste technology company, discussed energy generation from residual waste streams. In light of the EU's long-term waste diversion targets and the proximity principle, which dictates that energy generated from waste should be used by the local community, small-scale energy-from-waste plants should be factored into projections of national waste-to-energy capacity, said Mr Midtbust.

A step in the right direction
Anne Grete Riise, minister counsellor at the Norwegian embassy in Warsaw, described the seminar as another fine example of Polish-Norwegian bilateral cooperation. She pointed out that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides substantial funding for environmental projects, and that she and her colleagues in Norway value their excellent working relationship with the Polish environment ministry.

On behalf of the Polish government, deputy minister Janusz Ostapiuk thanked the organizers for a stimulating exchange of opinions, information and best practice.

In his concluding remarks, Thor Sverre Minnesjord, CEO of Green Business Norway, said that the seminar had helped both Poland and Norway take another step toward sustainable waste management practices.

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Anna Larsson, GBN, Thor Sverre Minnesjord, GBN, Anne Grete Riise, Minister Counselor, Embassy of the Norwegian Kingdom in Poland, Stanislaw Zelichowski, Chairman of Sejm Environment Committee, Tadeusz Arkit, chairman of Sejm Waste Management Committee, Janusz Ostapiuk, Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Environment.


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