Import and export of waste

The Norwegian authorities have strict requirements for import and export of waste. International cooperation is vital to prevent dumping of hazardous waste in countries that lack adequate treatment facilities.

Most waste is treated in Norway

Norway has the capacity to treat almost all of its own hazardous waste. However, certain types of hazardous waste, for instance batteries containing lead, require specially adapted technology for recycling or disposal. Some types of hazardous waste are therefore exported if specially adapted technology is not available in Norway or we have insufficient treatment capacity.

Most of the ordinary waste that is exported from Norway is sent to EU countries for recycling and incineration with energy recovery. Some companies, both in Norway and abroad, specialize in the treatment of certain types of waste. These companies import waste from all over the world.

Allows more treatment options, but increases tranportation needs

Import and export of waste creates competition and allows for more treatment options. This can lead to better utilization of resources. At the same time import and export of waste leads to increased transportation needs and energy use.

Illegal export of waste

Illegal export of waste occurs, and such export from Norway to developing countries has been uncovered by the authorities.

It is illegal to export used items that are in a poor condition or contain prohibited substances to developing countries. Many less affluent recipient countries can not ensure proper disposal. Export of waste containing prohibited substances may thus represent a danger to health and the environment in these countries.

When Norwegian authorities detect attempts to illegally export waste, it is stopped. If the authorities detect illegal exports in transit, the waste is to be returned to the country of origin for treatment.

Market influence on waste flows

Waste transport across national borders is influenced by market conditions. Taxation systems and the level of other costs vary from one country to another. These differences are amongst the factors that make some manufacturers and municipalities want to export waste.

A separate market has grown up for some types of waste, in which a few companies compete for one type of waste from many different countries. Some Norwegian waste importers are such niche companies.

Increased export of waste

Official statistics are kept of exports and imports of notifiable waste, i.e. waste that may only be transported across national borders with proper authorization. These statistics are based on annual reports sent to the Climate and Pollution Agency.

Export of waste

The export of waste has increased substantially since 2002. This is mainly due to a large increase in waste exported for incineration with energy recovery in Sweden. Some waste is exported for final treatment in Finland or Denmark and some is recovered elsewhere in Europe.

In 2010, Norway exported about 1 million tonnes of waste. This was about 230,000 tonnes more than the previous year. The increase was probably due to the landfill ban which was introduced in 2009, as well as various economic and technological factors.

Export of waste from Norway, 2002-2010

Import of waste

In 2010 the import of waste to Norway amounted to about 520,000 tonnes. This was almost twice as much as the previous year. The increase is most probably due to economic conditions, changes in the market and the fact that waste more and more is seen as a commodity.

Import of waste to Norway, 2002-2010

International regulation and control

Strict procedures and requirements have been established on an international and EU level to regulate transboundary transport of waste and to prevent transport of potentially hazardous waste into countries with lower environmental treatment standards.

Regulations on transboundary movement of waste

Norway takes part in internationally binding cooperation on waste transport under the framework of the UN, the OECD and the EEA Agreement. As a result, Norway has laid down regulations on transboundary movements of waste. The regulations also distinguish between waste recovery and final disposal.

Authorities may refuse import and export

The international rules allow the authorities to refuse to authorize the import or export of waste that may have undesirable environmental effects.

The role of the Norwegian Environment Agency

The Norwegian Environment Agency is the authority responsible for authorizing waste imports and exports in Norway, and will normally refuse exports of waste for disposal if there is an environmentally sound alternative in Norway. Waste that is to be recovered is regarded as a resource. The Climate and Pollution Agency therefore normally permits exports of both non-hazardous and hazardous waste for recovery to other countries in the OECD area.

The Norwegian Environment Agency, in collaboration with the Directorate of Customs and Excise, makes spot checks along the border and at larger ports to ensure that waste is only being exported and imported in accordance with the regulations.