Solving it together

A project to clean up Gothenburg, 450 km south-west of Stockholm, has had a catalytic effect on the city's environment since it was launched five years ago. Efforts were initiated in cooperation with Volvo, Sweden's largest car manufacturer, and other major companies; consultations were held on the use of a number of hazardous substances, and a joint action programme was evolved to avoid using these substances or replacing them with safe substitutes.

The approach was successful. Now, Sweden's largest detergent producer makes an environmentally sound washing powder. Volvo has announced it will eliminate cadmium, mercury, asbestos and chromium entirely from its manufacturing processes in addition to its 30 per cent cut in solvent emissions since 1988.

The Gothenburg project emphasises the cooperative approach in solving common problems. Earlier, environmental protection measures were implemented under threat of law, but the Gothenburg project has chosen a strategy that states, in effect: "Let us end this stalemate. If the authorities and the environmental organisations continue to regard industry as the enemy, we cannot make any progress. Let us cease to see only the problems and instead strive to cooperate where we can. We have a problem -- let us solve it together."

The project initially identified three major pollution problem areas: traffic, chemicals and hydrocarbon emissions from use of petroleum and from refineries. Under the new strategy, more attention is paid to problems regarding products and product consumption. This marks a new phase in environmental work and it involves attacking a problem at source so as to avoid having to treat process emissions.

Public environmental information campaigns have stressed "practice what you preach", "chemical clean-up" and "environmental awareness in procurement" as themes. An important aspect of the campaigns is not merely to change household attitudes among but to secure the cooperation of manufacturers, industry, traders and major consumers.

Gothenburg is participating in a Nordic project, which involves running buses on natural gas. Fleets of such buses are already in action.