Frequently asked questions about the #invisiblewaste campaign

About the campaign

We need to reduce the amount of waste in society at large.  

Consumers have trouble seeing the overall impact that their consumption has on the environment. They only see the waste produced when they discard their used products – they never see all the waste that was produced in the manufacturing process. For example, 86 kilograms of waste is produced when manufacturing one single mobile phone. We call this “invisible waste” since few consumers are aware of the amount of waste that has already produced by the time the product has completed the production stage.  

Reducing the amount of invisible waste can only be addressed in the design and production stages. By the time the product reaches the waste stage, it is too late.

Product designers and manufacturers must ensure that the consumer is able to reduce their waste footprint, meaning that the products they buy have not generated unnecessary waste before they are even purchased.  Products must also have a longer service life, be easier to repair and recycle, and ultimately be completely non-toxic the day they are recycled.

In Sweden, we are good at recycling our waste. But, the greatest environmental benefit is obtained through waste that is never created. We have a vision: Zero Waste. By this, we mean that Avfall Sverige and all of its members shall contribute knowledge, experience and social responsibility to save the planet's resources so that there is no unnecessary consumption and everything is used optimally. The #invisiblewaste campaign is one element in our work to achieve this vision.

  • Through our #invisiblewaste campaign, we want to spread knowledge about what we call the waste footprint – waste is produced not only when a used product is discarded, but also when the product is manufactured. 
  • Avfall Sverige wants to make invisible waste visible. We believe that getting more people to understand how much invisible waste is generated will result in more people understanding the need to reduce the amount of waste – and that an individual can contribute to this through their own consumption. 
  • Avfall Sverige works according to the waste hierarchy, and we want a greater number of organisations and people to work preventively, i.e. to prevent waste from occurring at all. 

 

By making the invisible visible to more people, we hope to encourage a greater number to practice more sustainable production and consumption. Over time, we want to reduce the waste footprint of products, thereby reducing human impact on the environment and the climate. 

We also hope that highlighting the issue fosters collaboration between parties such as decision makers, designers and production companies so they create more sustainable products and less waste. 

We would like the parliament and the government to realise that we are facing a necessary shift of systems towards a more circular economy. This affects laws and regulations in a wide range of areas. We are not issuing any requirements for specific legislation or instruments of control. We are instead working to increase understanding of the need for circularity in the minds of legislators. Waste management and more economical use of resources are important tools in this work.

Yes, together with other players we will continue working towards this. The campaign will not change perceptions in and of itself. It is instead an element of necessary lobbying efforts aimed at decision makers in politics and the business world. 

Invisible waste

#invisiblewaste is generally not the waste produced when a product is at the end of its service life, but rather the waste that is produced before the product even reaches the consumer. This is a type of waste that the consumers do not see, i.e. it is “invisible” and not something the consumer can influence directly. For example, 25 kilograms of waste is produced during the process required to manufacture a single pair of jeans. 86 kilograms of waste is produced to manufacture a single mobile phone. 

We will highlight the following in our dialogue:

  • We need to reduce the amount of waste as this is the measure that generates the greatest environmental benefit in the waste hierarchy

Measures must be implemented as early as the design and production stages so that: 

  • Products have a longer service life
  • Products are easier to repair
  • Products are easier to recycle
  • Products are ultimately completely non-toxic on the day they are recycled

By spreading knowledge, we can increase understanding of the importance of thinking about waste as early as the design and production process. Companies can design and manufacture their products so they can be repaired, reused and recycled. Companies can also inform consumers about the size of the product's waste footprint. In their role as purchaser, the municipalities can use procurement as a tool to set requirements for producers. 

One way to increase knowledge is to use and spread the #invisiblewaste campaign.

There are a lot of incredibly good measures being taken in relation to the circular economy. Many companies have very impressive business models for achieving more circularity. The fact that there is money to be saved also keeps the issue high on the agenda. 
But, there is still a lot left to do to get closer to our vision of “Zero Waste”.

About the report

Three years ago, we had IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute calculate the waste footprint of products. The figures that appear in the campaign are taken from there. You can find the report here (in Swedish)


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