We had the great pleasure and fortune to meet, while staying in Tromsø, north Norway, with Bo Eide. We had been in contact with Bo for many months now, and part of our mission up north was to visit him. Due to our unpredictable schedule and arrival date, we were lucky that he was in town.
Bo works in the Municipality and looks after the fishery and wildlife in the region. He thus was able to share with us, first hand, his experience and knowledge of the local environment and the issues he is facing in the Tromsø region. We, on the other hand, could tell him a little about our world and our problems.
An interesting fact, albeit known to us already, but reinforced by Bo, is that Norway, as a whole, has one of the highest return rates on plastic bottles where a refundable deposit is paid on purchase. It lies somewhere around 95%. This means, and we can only confirm this (actually for all of Scandinavia), that one sees very few plastic bottles lying by the roadside or in bushes. This is in part due to the nationwide return fee policy on bottles, and because, as Bo says, people in Norway are pretty good at disposing of their rubbish correctly, i.e. not littering.
One of the main problems Bo and his Municipality colleagues face is marine pollution. Tromsø is one of the ports used by the numerous North Atlantic fishing fleets to restock supplies. Despite the Atlantic currents which flow up the Norwegian coast, Bo estimates that 80% of the marine pollution which he has come across is fishing related equipment and not domestic plastic waste (such as plastic bottles or bags). Bo was not aware of any fish or sea bird stomach sampling projects, and it is therefore likely that more general plastic would be found in the stomachs of marine animals, as has been the case elsewhere.
We also asked him about any statistics on plastic pollution in land based animals and birds. Again, unfortunately, both due to the dense vegetation and insufficient animal carcasses autopsied, he is not aware of any data on plastic pollution in non-marine animals.
A little disheartening to hear from Bo is that there is little exchange or international collaboration on environmental issues in Norway. There is, as yet, no UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Norway which would seem to reinforce this fact. There is an occasional international beach clean-up which Norway partakes in, but limited man-power and resources, especially in his part of the Norway, has resulted in much less action than we would have expected.