Environment For Members

What you need to know about rubbish and recycling in Norway

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
What you need to know about rubbish and recycling in Norway
Norway has a top-notch recycling system. However, different parts of the country have different recycling practices. Pictured are rubbish bins in Bergen, western Norway. Photo by: Robin-Ivan Capar / The Local Norway

Norway's rubbish and recycling system can be quite confusing at the best of times, with each local authority having its own rules and bin system. Here's what you need to know to help get your head around the perplexing system.


Norway boasts an exceptionally well-structured recycling system that places a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility.

Grasping the ins and outs of the colour-coded bins and bags, the deposit system (commonly referred to as the pant system), and the waste separation guidelines will help keep you in control of your household waste while supporting the country's recycling endeavours.

Starting with the basics – colour-coded bins and bags

One of the first things you'll notice when it comes to recycling in Norway is the colour-coding.

This acts as a guide to how rubbish should be disposed of.

In some areas, you'll find colour-coded rubbish bins; in others, you'll see plain bins designed for specific colour-coded bags. The practice tends to differ in different parts of the country.

How to tell which rubbish goes in which bin

You can use the online platform Sortere to find out how to recycle and dispose of waste in every municipality in Norway. The site gives you an overview of the different colour codes and what can and can't be put in the bin. 

The rules can differ across the country. For example, while many cities have individual food waste bags or bins, Trondheim doesn't have a designated food waste bin or bag. 

You can use Sortere to browse the rules in Trondheim, Stavanger and Tromsø.

While the site is in Norwegian, using the google translate feature on desktop or the Chrome app should give you an accurate overview of what needs to be sorted where. 


Recycling in Oslo: An example of a bags-oriented system

In Oslo, there are specific guidelines for waste separation in different bags (you can pick up the bags for free at most local convenience stores), which cover plastic packaging, food waste, and residual waste.

To manage plastic packaging waste, you should use the purple bag. It's important to remember to rinse plastic waste if it happens to be dirty before placing it in this bag (more on that later).

The green bag is designated for food waste.

Lastly, general waste that doesn't fall into the previous categories can be disposed of in any regular bag.

Additionally, when it comes to paper and cardboard, separate containers are typically found outside most households.

You can find more information on the specific waste separation and recycling guidelines in Oslo on the municipality's website.


Bins Bergen 2

In Norway's second-largest city, Bergen, blue bins are reserved for paper and cardboard. Photo by: Robin-Ivan Capar / The Local Norway

Recycling in Bergen: An example of a bins-oriented system

In Bergen, the recycling system is more focused on the colour of the rubbish bins.

The green bin is usually designated for residual waste (restavfall). On the other hand, the blue bin is set aside for paper and cardboard.

Plastic packaging and items such as shampoo bottles, food packaging, and other plastic containers are generally collected in see-through bags, which should be put on top of the green and blue bins on the set days when BIR (one of Norway's largest waste disposal companies) collects plastic rubbish.


Metal, glass, and textiles collection points and the pant system

Recycling metal, glass, and textiles requires more effort compared to the other types of waste, as there are no dedicated metal and glass recycling bins at every doorstep.

However, there are numerous collection points for these materials in most cities, and you should be able to find information about these locations easily on your municipality's website.

You can also find a full list of the collection points and recycling stations in your municipality on Sortere.

Once you've mastered your local colour-coding rules, it's time to become acquainted with Norway's pant (deposit) system.

Nearly every plastic bottle of juice, water, or soda that you buy at a store, as well as every can of beer or soft drink, has a pant (deposit) value printed on it.

When purchasing such items, you'll pay the pant value in addition to the regular price. This value typically ranges from 1 to 3 kroner.

However, you can reclaim this fee by returning the empty containers to a pant machine, which can be found at the entrances of most supermarkets, such as REMA 1000 or Kiwi.

Simply insert your bottles and cans into the machine's slot, and it will calculate the pant value for each item. Once you're finished, the machine will issue a receipt with the total amount in kroner.

You can then use this receipt to pay for your purchases at the supermarket or donate the amount to charity through the machine.


Best practices for recycling in Norway

The first step in proper recycling is to identify the recycling mark on the packaging. These symbols provide instructions on categorising and disposing of the item correctly.

In case you're unsure about the meaning of a specific symbol, you can turn to online resources like Sortere for assistance.

To facilitate recycling, it's important to prepare the packaging properly. Packaging is considered ready for recycling when it no longer contains food residues or other product traces. While a thin layer of grease or residue is acceptable, thorough cleaning is essential.

To clean packaging, scrape or rinse off any remaining residue using cold water. Sometimes, a dish brush may be necessary for a more thorough cleaning.

If an item has significant food residue that cannot be removed, it's advisable to dispose of it in the residual waste category.

Remember – efficient recycling begins with an organised system at home. Most municipalities advise that people create a designated space for recycling by placing five containers, which can be boxes, carrier nets, or baskets, in easily accessible locations where their rubbish typically accumulates.

These five containers should correspond to the categories of paper waste, plastic packaging, food waste, residual waste, and glass and metal packaging.

Consider placing these containers under your kitchen counter or in a spacious kitchen drawer to optimise the use of space.

When it comes to food waste, you can choose to compost it yourself. Ideally you should the room for this at home to prevent unpleasant smells.

Such unpleasant smells could create issues between neighbours. If you live in a housing association, they may make you throw out your food waste if the smell is bothering neighbours. 


Comments (1)

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Sarah 2024/01/09 12:54
Hei! What about envelopes with window? Takk!
  • Anonymous 2024/01/09 13:16
    Hello, I believe the absolute best practice is to remove the plastic window and put that in the plastic so it can be recycled. If not, it can recycled whole in the paper bin. The plastic will be separated during the pulping process but will probably then be discarded rather than recycled. Best, Frazer

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