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.

Continued increase in recovery rates

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. 

Waste recovery

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.  

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Final treatment

Final treatment of waste means landfilling or incineration without energy recovery. Incineration with energy recovery is considered to be recovery, but these treatment methods result in different environmental impacts.

Landfilling of waste leads to the generation and release of methane, a greenhouse gas. In 2013, methane from waste accounted for about 2 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.

The amount of degradable material going to landfill has dropped, partly due to a ban on the landfilling of bio-degradable waste that entered into force on 1 July 2009, and partly to increased export of waste to Sweden for incineration.

Hazardous waste

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. Hazardous waste which is disposed in the sewage may cause increased pollution of the sea and seabed due to malfunctioning of purifying plants.

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Consumption is the key driver

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.

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A number of instruments in place

Waste management is regulated in various ways, and there is interplay between regulation at central and local levels. The central government authorities set the general framework, leaving municipalities and industry with a relatively free hand to design local collection and treatment solutions.

Important 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

The effect of policy instruments is expected to increase

The instruments in the waste area contribute in a positive direction, particularly in relation to achieving reduced emissions from waste treatment. More stringent requirements, for example, provide better control of runoff of hazardous substances from landfills.

The effect of the policy instruments is expected to increase. This particularly applies to initiatives that require re-adjustment by the municipalities, businesses, and a change in people’s habits and customs.