Publication / The Daily Beast
May 1, 2013
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Norway Runs Short of Garbage Needed to Make Electricity

Oslo burns garbage to produce energy. But with Norwegians producing less trash, the city is now importing junk.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and in Norway, that’s literally the case. But Oslo, the capital city, seems to be running out of this vital commodity.

Norway’s incinerating plants are built to handle up to 700 million tons of waste, but the population of northern Europe is producing only 150 million tons a year. With Europeans producing less garbage, trash has become a hot commodity throughout many northern countries. Cities like Stockholm have become competitors to Oslo, vying for trash from England and other countries that previously willingly gave their waste to Norway.

“There’s a European waste market—it’s a commodity,” Hege Rooth Olbergsveen, senior adviser to Oslo’s waste-recovery program, told the Times. “It’s a growing market.”

Cities in northern England are large benefactors of the trash demand. Leeds ships as much as 1,000 tons of garbage a month to countries including Norway. The move not only frees up land in small regions, but trash-wanting cities will often pay others for their trash to in turn save money off burning it for fuel. And that may create some strange incentives—the desire for one country to save on the amount of fossil fuels it uses could be pushing people in other countries to intentionally generate more waste.