Communities Field Note: How Norway Deals With Waste

I have now lived in Norway for over four months, and I have learned a lot about this country. I know a bit about the language, geography, and the way people interact with each other.

Norway seems to be a very clean country, and I want to tell you about what I’ve seen here with how they deal with waste.

At my university and in my dormitory, it is very easy to recycle. At the university, they have lots of recycling bins, and they tell you which ones are for what type of waste. They also have several other bins in the cafeteria that are for throwing away food you haven’t eaten. This type of food waste can be used to make compost for gardening, and it doesn’t have to be stored underground or burned like most other waste does. Instead, food waste can be put back into the environment.

Oslo, the capital of Norway, has another way to help control waste. At grocery stores they give out free bags that are colored green and blue. In the green bags, you put food waste. In the blue bags, you put plastic waste. This makes it easier for the garbage company to sort out the garbage and recycle what they can. If you want to have a bag for your groceries, you must pay one extra Norwegian kroner ($0.17 USD) for it. This helps remind people to bring their own bags and reuse them.

At my dormitory we have several kitchens that we share, and each kitchen has a recycling bin. We put glass, plastic, and cardboard into this bin. Then we go down to the garbage room and put the recycling into each container. This helps reduce waste and recycle material that might be used again for something else, such as with making more cardboard boxes or soda cans.

Homes are also given a bin for recycling and garbage, so when their trash is collected, some of it is recycled. This is similar to how we do it in the U.S.

We’re able to drink tap water in Norway. It is very clean. It tastes just as good as it does at my home in Maine!

My Norwegian friends say they care about recycling and keeping their country clean. “I never throw away cans. If I have a can and there is no recycling bin then I hold onto it until I find one,” my friend Benedicte told me. She also said, “One of the problems with people all around the world is that they will only recycle something if it is easy for them. Otherwise they throw it away.” She thinks that the main problem is we need even more recycling bins around and people need to hang onto cans, cardboard, or plastic until they find a place to recycle it. Benedicte is happy to see that grocery stores make people pay to have a plastic bag, because most grocery stores in the U.S. do not do this. This makes people want to bring a bag to the grocery store to save money. This helps out the environment because they use less plastic.

Most of the students here in Norway have CamelBak water bottles. These water bottles are plastic, but they are made without using bad chemicals, so it is better for the environment. They use these water bottles again and again, instead of buying plastic ones that you can only use once. They also bring coffee mugs to school to get coffee instead of using cardboard or plastic cups. If you do need to use a cardboard cup for coffee, you have to pay one extra Norwegian kroner. This really helps because it creates less waste.

At my university in Norway and my university in the U.S., they have environmental clubs. This is really great, because it helps give students information about what is good and bad for the environment and what they can do to help it. These clubs also help get more recycling bins. Students that are part of these clubs are able to help out by telling people how waste hurts the environment. Then maybe these people may tell even more people how to help the environment! This seems to be very important if we want to create a clean earth.

At almost every bus stop there is a trash bin. This might also help out the environment because instead of throwing trash onto the street it is put in the trash bin. Lots of Norwegian houses have little sheds to keep their trash under, and some of these sheds have grass roofs! Grass (or sod) roofs in Norway are very common.

One of the new systems of solid waste management in recent years is how garbage is used as energy in Norway. In Oslo, half of the city is heated by burning garbage. They use so much garbage for energy that they have run out of garbage to use! Now Oslo is getting garbage from other countries like England and Ireland. This helps England and Ireland, because they don’t have to bury the garbage underground in landfills, which are areas that store garbage. Since the garbage is color-coded, one for food and one for non-food waste, this helps to make sure that only certain garbage is burned for energy. Separating food from other garbage has recently helped Oslo be able to make biogas, a type of gas that can be used as energy. This type of gas is made from the food we don’t eat. It’s made from our leftovers!

Some people think that burning gas may not be a good thing, because it might make people continue to produce lots of garbage so more gas can be made. Even though this may be true, more recycling while at the same time burning certain types of garbage may be the best option to help keep our Earth clean for now.

Norway really seems to be trying to make good use of the waste they have. They charge extra money for using cardboard cups and plastic bags, they give free bags to separate leftover food from other garbage, and they burn the garbage they have to create energy instead of storing it under ground. Is this similar to the U.S.? What do you all think? Until we talk next time, hade (goodbye)!

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