Hazardous waste

Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency Lag rapport Les på norsk

In Norway, the amount of  hazardous waste has more than doubled since 1999. Almost all of it is collected and taken proper care of.

More hazardous waste is collected

According to Statistics Norway a total of almost 1.5 million tonnes of hazardous waste was handled in compliance with approved treatment in 2016. This is a 5.3 per cent increase compared to the year before.  

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The amount of hazardous waste is increasing

Overall the amount of  registered hazardous waste has more than doubled since 1999. Much of the increase is due to increased activity, improved collection, and a considerable expansion of the list of hazardous waste. More oil-contaminated hazardous waste from the offshore oil and gas industry is also taken ashore instead of being injected underground. 

Hazardous waste is taken proper care of

In 2016, about 98 per cent of the hazardous waste was collected and taken proper care of. 

Statistics Norway calculates that around 21 000 tonnes of hazardous waste was handled in an unknown manner. Some of this waste may have been mixed with non-hazardous waste, discharged into the sewers or dumped directly into the environment.

Hazardous waste that is delivered for approved treatment is not always registered correctly. The Norwegian Environment Agency therefore believes that parts of the 21 000 tonnes may still have been handled in approved treatment facilities.

Since the peak in 2004, the quantity of hazardous waste treated in unknown ways in Norway has declined by about 80 per cent. The main reasons are increased collection of oil-contaminated hazardous waste and less creosote-containing wood going astray. 

It also appears that households have become better at delivering hazardous waste for approved treatment. According to Statistics Norway, households delivered 63 000 tonnes in 2016.

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Spread of hazardous chemicals

Hazardous waste contains substances that are harmful to health and the environment. Hazardous waste can spread harmful substances and accumulate in the environment via leachate of contaminated water from landfills, or via emissions from the flue gases, ash or slag from incineration plants.

When hazardous waste is collected and treated in a proper manner, the spreading of hazardous substances in the environment is avoided.

Volume of hazardous waste linked to growth in consumption

The volume of waste in a society is closely related to its level of consumption. A growth in consumption often translates into a growth in waste. It also means more hazardous waste, especially waste from consumer products. The amounts of hazardous waste generated are also closely related to developments in business and industry.

In Norway, we have experienced a considerable increase in the amounts of hazardous waste generated by the offshore industry.

Promoting sound management

Information about hazardous waste, how it is to be handled and where it is to be delivered is considered to be the most important thing we can do to prevent hazardous waste being discarded with other waste. Hazardous waste should not be mixed with non-hazardous waste, but be handled separately.

Under the Pollution Control Act the competent Norwegian authorities have issued regulations concerning hazardous waste. These include rules for permits to manage hazardous waste, the obligation to deliver hazardous waste, declaration, the responsibilities of the municipalities, packaging, inspection and audit.

Many other provisions govern specific types of hazardous waste and associated problems, including batteries, oily wastewater, photographic chemicals, amalgam, CFCs, fire and explosion hazards, the export and import of hazardous waste and chemicals in general.

Permits and licences

A permit is normally required from the competent pollution control authorities before a contractor may process hazardous waste.

The Norwegian Environment Agency issues permits for collection and processing of hazardous waste, whilst the County Governor issues permits for the reception and temporary storage of hazardous waste. The permits specify criteria that must be met to ensure proper handling.

The export of hazardous waste is only permitted in certain cases. 

Return schemes

Various industry-specific schemes and taxes are also used for hazardous waste. One provides a refund when waste oil is delivered to approved facilities. Another is an auto-industry return scheme for lead accumulators and old insulating windows containing PCB.

Another example is the return schemes that provide consumers free delivery of electrical/electronic (EE) waste. Consumers have the right to deliver their personal computers, mobile telephones and so on to the distributors free of charge. The distributors of such products are obliged to collect them. The harmful components are separated for special collection.

The responsibilities of municipalities and companies

The municipalities are responsible for the existence of an arrangement that makes it possible to deliver hazardous waste. This is primarily an offer to households and businesses with small amounts of hazardous waste. The municipality's costs for collecting and handling hazardous waste from households are covered by a renovation fee.

Companies that generate hazardous waste have a duty to declare and deliver the waste to an approved hazardous waste disposal system. Declaration of hazardous waste is done via the website www.avfallsdeklarering.no.