Where Should Norway Invest To Increase Its Circularity?

Increasing circularity practice and strategies is necessary in order to solve issues relating to waste production and management.

Next to all materials consumed yearly never make it back into the Norwegian economy, according to the circularity experts organization Circle Economy, which assessed that if Norway would increase its circularity strategies, it could do twenty time better than today.

The Norwegian economy is in fact only 2,4% circular, according to their study, whereas the average worldwide is 8,6%. Overconsumption in richest countries is one of the key factors for nations to have higher amounts of waste to dispose of, and Norway is not far from the top of the chart.

Grouped under the brand Novooi, designers and startup funders working with materials met during Oslo Innovation Week 2022, to discuss how to recycle materials in new ways, and how to create local operational systems to repurpose items. This way, not only the country could increase its circularity level, but also decrease its CO2 emissions.

Bricks from bricks

In Norway, 50% of landfilled waste derives from materials from the construction industry: and solving this sector’s issue is where some of the most promising startups and companies are focusing on.

HØINE is an Oslo-based company founded in 2019, which reclaims bricks from buildings that have to be demolished. According to Jorunn Tyssø, ceo at HØINE , the potential circularity gains for bricks could total nearly $ 500 thousands yearly, as in the country there are already over 300,000 bricks ready to use: “When we recycle bricks we save 99% of CO2 production and transportation of bricks in Norway,” she said. By counting bricks, the company is able to determine how many new lighter bricks they are able to create and offer to new construction projects.

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New technologies and data management systems able to scan and maps building’s potential such as Material Mapper are even able to tell where, what types and what quantities of building materials will result from demolished buildings at a given time. Since 2019 the city of Oslo is experimenting with zero constructions sites procedures, where electric construction machineries are used on construction sites, limiting further CO2 production.

The leftover bricks that end up being broken throughout the reshaping process also end up having their own functions: small clay bits distributed in yards can absorb excess water, making areas more resilient.

Concrete solutions

Global CO2 emissions linked to concrete will need to fall steeply in the next few years. A total of one third of waste material in Europe is generated from the mining industry and by using normal cement. Saferock is a Norwegian green tech company aiming to create a new concrete by upcycling mining and industry waste materials: “If you touch it and look at it you cannot see the difference,” said Steen Rossi, co founder of Saferock, who in 2018 created the first one block plastic chair from recycled Norwegian fishing nets.

According to Rossi, concrete as a material has always been optimizing, where the Portland-based concrete is currently the most used and constitute the benchmark for optimisation. His intention is to produce a carbon neutral geopolymer concrete for the building and construction industry where mining waste can be one of the ingredient.

The company attracted the interest of Equinor Ventures that in August 2022 joined Saferock has raised $ 3,8 million to finance the first piloting factory in the city of Sandes. The new factory will be in place during 2023 and will use waste materials from the Titania factory in Sokndal. In addition, Saferock will receive $ 1,2 million in grants from Enova.

Local resources in small circles

Researchers in Norway are now considering a new circularity indicator called “small circles”, where a material or waste can be considered more circular if the future waste is produced and disposed in smaller geographical area, so to reduce the environmental burdens originating from the transboundary export of waste.To make possible for resources and products to stay within the local small of national border, increasing public sector policymaking and collaborations would be quintessential for some of these products and waste streams.The Norwegian stationary brand All Pine Press, manufactures sustainable paper products from leftover spruce at the last remaining paper mill in Norway. The company has received the support from the National Museum to create a new line of stationeries depicting famous paintings shown at the galleries which locals and international visitors can bring back home.

Likewise the designer firm Norwegian Trash has been experimenting with ocean plastic trash and snoos containers, receiving fundings from the Norwegian Research Council in order to give a second life to plastic products in the form of furniture. Tables and lightning systems are not produced at mass scale, but the company still works on commissions especially from renowned restaurants and cafes within the country.

The next challenge however is to create an alternative way to rescue 250 tons of snoos boxes which might end in trashes. So far the company created a plastic frisbee and stools but has bigger dreams: “If we can catch it in a cash back system we will be sure that almost all these boxes can be recycled,” said Sindre Rosness, ceo and cofounder of Norwegian Trash. The standardization in color of tobacco snoos boxed, due to the strict regulations put on tobacco brands, has made the potential for material recycling great, as it solves the problem of heterogeneity in materials in production.

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