Oslo, Norway


Oslo has an integrated waste management system that is based on the Waste Management Hierarchy. In 2011, about 240,000 tonnes household waste was collected and of this 1% was reused, 33% recycled, 60% energy recovered and only 6% went to landfill.

What is it?

The municipality has had sole responsibility for the collection of all household waste since 1932. Since 1993, this organization has outsourced services with commercial waste operators carrying out collection services on 5-year contracts.

From 2006, the city has had a Waste Management Strategy that sets ambitious targets for sorting of plastic packaging and food waste. A minimum of 50 % of the household waste shall be recycled within 2014. All hazardous waste shall be collected and treated securely. This strategy aims to establish a “recycle and reuse” society.

How does it work?

The Waste Management Strategy (WMS) builds on national strategies and promotes the waste management hierarchy. The hierarchy says the priorities are:

  1. Waste reduction - prevent production of waste
  2. Re-use of objects
  3. Recycling (Material recovery)
  4. Incineration with energy recovery (Waste-to-Energy)
  5. Landfill (for inert waste only)

Incineration and landfill are seen as the least desirable forms of waste management and represent the last resort within Oslo’s strategy. As such, a large part of the WMS concentrates on the behavioral habits of citizens – an attitude change must take place, if citizens are to carry out waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Sorting of materials must take place not only at recycling stations, but also in kitchens, living rooms and offices. Collaborations with voluntary organisations, awareness raising campaigns and tools such as a well-used website, and the extension of the local collection site network, all aim to enable citizens to implement the strategy.

In addition, the city is encouraging developers to install pneumatic waste collection services and thus reduce the need for truck-based collections. The “producer pays” principle is also being promoted with regard to consumer packaging.

Application/system description

Household waste is sorted by citizens - in their own homes – into various fractions. Since 1997, paper and drink cartons have been collected by the city after separation in households, whereas glass and metal packagings are delivered by households to the about 700 local collection sites around the city. 90 % of the households have such a collection point within a radius of 300 meters.

Sorting of food waste and plastic packaging at source started with the first 17 000 households in October 2009. The remainder has been joining in gradually since 2010, and since June 2012 all households in Oslo are included. Plastic packaging is deposited in blue bags while food waste goes in green bags. Residual waste is to be discarded in other plastic bags (from grocery stores etc.). All bags are discarded into the same waste containers. The coloured bags are separated from each other in optical sorting plants. The plastic packaging is recycled and goes into the production of new plastic products.

A new biological treatment plant is being constructed in Nes municipality, north-east of Oslo, and it is scheduled for opening January 1st 2013. The plant will produce both biogas and bio fertilizer from Oslo’s food waste. The biogas will be used as a green fuel for buses and waste trucks, and the bio fertilizer will be used by local farmers. Until the new plant opens, the food waste is sent to biogas plants in Sweden. The biogas plant will have the capacity to handle 50 000 tonnes of food waste per year, which will make it possible to treat food waste from other municipalities, business and industry as well as from households in Oslo. Biogas from one kilo food waste equals about 0,13 l petrol, which means that a bus can drive about 500 meters on 2 kilos of food waste The biogas plant will produce about 4,5 million Nm3 upgraded biogas and 90 000 m3 bio fertilizer (liquid) per year. These amounts will be enough to run about 150 buses on biogas and provide about 100 medium-sized farms with bio fertilizer yearly.

Oslo has two large recycling stations and plans to build another one. In 2011, the recycling stations had about 650 000 visitors. Six local recycling stations are established, creating more convenient facilities for communities. Around 36 collection points for hazardous waste are located at gasoline stations, and 190 collection containers for textiles are spread throughout the city.

Two waste-to-energy plants incinerate residual waste from the city, with a capacity of 410,000 tonnes of waste per year. The Klemetsrud plant was extended by a third incineration line in 2010. The energy is used for district heating (hot water) and electricity. The total energy production is about 840 GWh heat and 160 GWh electricity per year. The heat energy meets the need of about 84 000 households through the district heating system, while the produced electricity is delivered to the city schools.

Norway has banned the deposition of biodegradable waste in landfills from 2009, yet in Oslo, this target was met in 2002. The city landfill site closed in 2007. Landfill gas from earlier deposits is collected and used for production of electric energy, delivered to the schools of Oslo.

CO2 emissions reduction

The Waste Management Strategy 2006 – 2009 aims to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emission by several actions. A minimum of 50 % of the household waste shall be recycled in 2014, and this will contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions from waste. Food waste will be treated in a biogas plant and will be transformed to biogas and biofertilizer. The biogas will be upgraded into fuel for city buses. Material recovery of plastic packaging will reduce CO2 emissions by reducing production of new plastic from oil. It’s a goal that every inhabitant in Oslo shall separate at source 10 kg plastic packaging and 50 kg food waste. This will reduce the CO2 emissions by 20 000 tonnes yearly. In 2011 collection of plastic packaging and food waste contributed to a reduction of 6 000 tonnes CO2, and the numbers are increasing. Increased recycling of other types of waste as paper, glass- and metal packaging, textiles and garden waste will also contribute to the reduction of CO2.Methane gas from the Grønmo landfill is collected and delivered through pipes to the Waste-to-Energy plant at Klemetsrud, where it is transformed to electricity.

Energy efficiency

The two Waste-to-Energy plants delivered energy for district heating to about 84 000 households in the city in 2011.


The households in Oslo finance the waste service by paying a mandatory fee. In 2011, the total cost was approximately US$ 93.5 million. The corresponding income was in US$ 111 million, of which approximately US$ 7 million was related to external sales (metal, paper, electrical components etc.). The waste management is based on a “at cost” principle which in practice means that both surplus and deficit is transferred to a “waste fund” which is leveled out over time. In 2011, the average cost per inhabitant was US$ 138. The average annual amount of waste per inhabitant was 392 kg.

Investments in a new recycling station are planned at an estimated cost of US$ 48 million. This comes in addition to the two existing recycling stations in Oslo.


In Oslo, about 340 000 households generate annual waste of about 240 000 tonnes – of this, about 114 000 tonnes of residual waste and 40 000 tonnes of paper is collected. In 2011, 392 kg of waste per person was produced, of which about 33 % was recycled. The city has a goal to increase the percentage of recycling (material recovery) to 50 % in 2014. Incineration with energy recovery was 60 % in 2011.

Every week, the city empties about 130 000 bins – 7 million per year.

Next steps

The City Council’s Climate and Energy Program from 2005, aims to reduce greenhouse gases and to encourage the use of more sustainable energy sources. One vision is that by the year 2030 Oslo’s climate gas emissions will be reduced by 50 % compared to 1990.

The Waste Management Strategy sets ambitious targets and will increase the percentage of recycling of household waste to a minimum of 50 % within year 2014.

Citizens will be encouraged to sort food waste and plastic packaging for recycling, in order to achieve a target of 50 kg food waste and 10 kg plastic packaging per inhabitant per year in Oslo.