Recycling in Norway

April 14, 2012

residential recycling bins Norway

Recycling is pretty important to me and I’ve felt discouraged in the past by the places I’ve lived. Sometimes apartment buildings or complexes have had separate bins for paper but often people would just throw other rubbish into these. So even when we brought our boxes of paper waste down I was dubious as to whether it would just be tossed together with the regular waste.

sorting wasteNot the case in Norway. Waste disposal schemes vary by municipality here but I’m really encouraged by what we see in ours. At residential properties and on the streets are three separate bins for sorting paper, organic waste and everything else. We have three large rubbish bins on our property for this purpose. It’s easy to sort the rubbish into different smaller receptacles indoors and then carry it out. Our local council even provided rolls of ‘bio bags’ for the organic waste. How much easier can one ask for?

bio bags organic recycling

‘Bio bags’ for organic recycling

residential recycling bins Norway

Residential recycling bins in Stavanger, Norway. Brown is for organic, green for paper and black for everything else.

When it comes to plastic bottles, each one has value. These can be collected and taken to the local supermarket where there are machines for depositing them. Just place the bottle into the compartment and receive a ticket for the refund amount to use at the cashier. Glass, metal and hazardous waste are a bit more work to recycle as these have to be taken to the waste recycling centres. We did, however, notice receptacles for electrical and electronic equipment (EE waste) at one of the large electronics stores near our house – a bit more convenient for things like old phones, batteries and ink cartridges. The municipality even sends around little cardboard battery boxes for collecting these.

street recycling bins norway

Recycling while you’re out and about is easy in Norway.

Norway is certainly not unique in Europe for being conscientious about waste management, but I haven’t seen anywhere else so far that makes it so easy for people to sort their garbage on the street. This is just another area where the country is exceeding our expectations as a place to live.

Do people recycle where you live? How does the system work?


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  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    Norway just keeps getting better :-)

  • Jill

    I love this! Recycling is definitely not the norm where I live. It’s very painful to see so many recyclable goods in the trash everyday.

    • inspiringtravellers

      I always feel the same way when I see that happen in other places, Jill. Such a wasted opportunity!

  • Emily in Chile

    That’s great! We have to take our recycling to a recycling point, there’s no home pick-up. And since we usually wait a while between drop-offs in order to accumulate enough to make the trip worth it, I’m pretty sure our doormen think we’re alcoholics who only eat pizza.

    • inspiringtravellers

      Haha – that made me laugh! After I posted this article we actually saw that our recycling centre is right in the neighbourhood – just big communal bins for the things you can’t recycle at home. But it’s still far enough away that we’ll probably wait until we have a car to drive there.

  • Sophie

    I´m so enjoying seeing Norway through your eyes, guys – the things I don´t even think about…

    By the way, electrical- and electronics shops are required by law to accept EE-rubbish (for free, and from anyone, not just from their customers). If you sell it, you have to accept the waste-products.

    • inspiringtravellers

      I think that’s always the way when you’ve lived somewhere for so long =) I think I read that about the electrical shops – so good to know!

  • Lauren

    This is really interesting – I’m from the US, and always felt that recycling was a hassle (I know, I’m ashamed). Now I’m in Korea, where it’s standard practice to separate & toss your recyclables into designated bins (Styrofoam, plastic, cans, paper, compost, glass). Because of recycling, our trash can stays empty for weeks. I’m shocked that more countries aren’t taking it more seriously. Good to see that Norway is!

    • inspiringtravellers

      Wow – that’s a lot more specific than here. I’ve heard that the Asian countries are quite forward thinking on this – have never had the chance to visit Korea though!

  • Natasha von Geldern

    Great work Norway! Melbourne/Australia seems to recycle to a higher level than either the UK or New Zealand. But clearly still some way to go!

    • inspiringtravellers

      I was pretty surprised that there wasn’t more recycling in New Zealand, actually. And I don’t know how the UK gets away with it considering their small size and large population…

  • Abby

    Great news! Costa Rica was not the easiest place to recycle, although it was better towards the end. We finally got more bins outside the main supermarket, even though only the expats used them. Although with no paper mail system (you stop by the food store to pay your bills) and laws against building anywhere near any beach, the country gets kudos in other areas!

    • inspiringtravellers

      That’s great to hear! I love anything paperless…here you don’t even get prescriptions on paper, everything goes into the central computer system so you just go to your pharmacy and they look up your scripts.

  • A Montrealer Abroad

    I really like recycling system in Montreal, because it’s so simple! All recyclables go in the same organic bag provided by the city hall, and trucks pick them up every week. Although the downside, from what I hear, is that putting everything in one place leads to less recycling as opposed to having specific container for each type of recyclable, as what France has where I live.

    • inspiringtravellers

      Interesting – I wonder who sorts all that rubbish? We have separate bins here…

  • Laura

    Amazing. This should be the norm in every country in the world. But in reality some countries are so far behind in the recycling program that they do not have the infrastructure to recycle, even if the people want to do it… Maybe one does not realize it at first, but when you travel and you see how well organized others are it makes you sad that your own country does not do more for the environment.

    • inspiringtravellers

      That’s a great point, Laura. Economics always come into play…

  • Alexa Meisler

    Norway sure is thorough when it comes to everything! It’s no wonder this country is doing so well. They make sure they have everything covered even as simple as recycling. I am truly amazed.

  • Jade –

    I find most European countries are good at recycling. In Belgium, the council allots you three colours of bags for different types of items, and you are only given a certain number of trash rubbish bags per person in the household…. if you produce more trash than that, you have to pay for the extra bags. It’s brilliant because it gives people a financial incentive to recycle

    • inspiringtravellers

      That’s really smart! I’m enjoying reading about all these different programs in each country.

  • Andrew

    Sounds similar to Germany. Though we have a yellow bag for plastic and packaging. It is nice that your city hands out the bio bags. We have to buy ours or wrap it in paper which gets gooey fast.
    the recycling sounds more convenient there. We have places to take things but most are not in town. The battery boxes are at the grocery store and yet are always bursting full
    Glad you guys are settling into expat life up there.

  • Kim

    inspiringtravellers April 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm
    I was pretty surprised that there wasn’t more recycling in New Zealand, actually. And I don’t know how the UK gets away with it considering their small size and large population…”

    Actually we recycle a lot in the UK! At least we do in Cambridgeshire. We have house collections for brown waste (old food, sawdust, grass, garden waste etc) blue bins (for paper, cardboard, glass bottles, tin cans, plastic containers and wrappers) and a green bin for everything else. But there are local recylcing centres everywhere where we recyle, vegitable oil, books, electronic goods, clothes, shoes (you name it). Disposable batteries are also easily recycled as most pharmacies (bizzarely enough) and the containers here are nearly always over flowing.

    • inspiringtravellers

      That’s great to hear, Kim! I have no idea about the UK as I’ve never been there…sounds like a very similar program to here. =)

  • Sabrina

    Seems like Norway makes it pretty easy to be a good recycler. I love that they actually provide the right bags for your compost. As you can imagine, things here in Texas are pretty much at the other end of the spectrum: we have one main dumster in the alley behind the house for everything. I bought a few extra trashcans and inside our house we collect plastic and glass bottles that I bring to a store that has some recyclying dumpsters… Still much less than I think I should do, but a step in the right direction. I’m considering doing my own compost in the backyard.

    • inspiringtravellers

      I’m sure it depends on what state you live in when it comes to the US. Though none of the four I ever lived in had comprehensive recycling programs with every household participating.

  • Lisa

    I really love seeing this, Germany was also so efficient about the recycling when I lived there. It really is essential to the planet and I am so pleased when I see people recycling.

    • inspiringtravellers

      Me too, Lisa! =)

  • Sarah @ Green Global Travel

    I’m proud of Norway! If every country made it that simple to recycle, we really wouldn’t have any excuse for not doing it.

    • inspiringtravellers

      I’m proud too! Though I have heard from others that not all Norwegians are environmentally conscious and you can find a lot of litterbugs around. Stavanger is pretty clean so we haven’t experienced that personally though.

  • Tricia

    Anyone know what happens to the materials once they have been recycled?
    I would like to see recycling of electronics made easier. Most people are unaware that light bulbs, batteries, etc. should be recycled.

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