Norway: Waste volumes increased, but 81% of non-hazardous waste recovered

Source: Norwegian Environment Agency

Oslo, Norway – In Norway, waste volumes have increased by more than 50 per cent since 1995. As much as 81 per cent of the non-hazardous waste is recovered, and 97 per cent of the hazardous waste is collected. Proper treatment of hazardous waste is particularly important to prevent releases of dangerous substances into the environment.

Norway generated 11.2 million tonnes of waste in 2013. This was an increase of 5 per cent from the year before. Since 1995, the total waste volume in Norway has increased by more than 50 per cent. Household waste comprises an increasingly bigger share of the total waste amount. In 2013 households generated 22 per cent of all waste in Norway. The recovery rate for non-hazardous waste reached 81 per cent in 2013. Material recovery comprised 34 per cent, while energy recovery counted for 36 per cent.

Landfilled waste amount decreased

Final treatment of waste means landfilling or incineration without energy recovery. The amount of landfilled waste decreased from 1.819.000 tonnes in 1995 to 432.000 tonnes in 2011. During that period, incineration without energy recovery increased from 194.000 tonnes to 566.000 tonnes. The same did energy recovery, climbing from 1.110.000 tonnes to 2.713.000.

Landfilling of waste leads to the generation and release of methane, a greenhouse gas. In 2013, methane from waste accounted for about two per cent of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions and thus contributes to global warming. Landfilling also represents a threat for coming generations as emissions continue for a very long time after waste is deposited. Incineration of waste leads to emissions of flue gases containing hazardous chemicals, dust and acidic components.

1.4 m tonnes of hazardous waste treated properly

In 2014, a total of 1.4 million tonnes of hazardous waste was handled according to approved treatment. If hazardous waste is dumped with ordinary waste it may result in the dispersal of harmful substances in the environment. They may spread via seepage of contaminated water from landfills, or in the flue gases, ash or slag produced in the incineration process.

Economic growth, or growth in production and consumption, is the key driving force behind waste volumes in Norway. Larger homes, higher housing standards, frequent decoration and reconstruction, and increased spending on furniture and household appliances are typical examples of how affluence generates waste. There is more and more hazardous waste from consumer goods such as computers and mobile phones.

However, with more waste recovery, the quantity of waste delivered for final disposal has declined, and releases from waste treatment have been reduced in recent years.

A number of waste policy instruments

The authorities have put in place a number of instruments (e.g. legislation, taxes, and economic incentives) targeted at the municipalities, business and industry. The most important waste policy instruments are:

  • municipal responsibility for household waste
  • business and industry responsibility for dealing with the waste they generate, including the collection and appropriate treatment of certain types of waste products, such as ee-waste, packaging, cars, tyres, batteries, lubricant oil and PCB-windows
  • regulation of landfilling and incineration according to EU legislation
  • tax on final disposal of waste to landfills
  • waste management plans as a mandatory element of all building projects, as part of municipal administrative procedures
  • ban on landfilling of biodegradable waste from 1 July 2009

Source: Ministry of Climate and Environment / Norwegian Environment Agency