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Will you be fined if you don't sort your waste into the right bins in Norway?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Will you be fined if you don't sort your waste into the right bins in Norway?
What happens if you make a mistake while sorting waste – or if someone ignores the Norwegian sorting rules altogether? Photo by: Robin-Ivan Capar / The Viking Herald

If you've just moved to Norway and you're still getting the hang of the country's waste sorting rules, you might be wondering if there's a chance you could get slapped with fines for making a mistake.

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Norway has a well-structured waste sorting and recycling system that focuses on sustainability, and understanding this system is important to managing household waste effectively.

READ MORE: What you need to know about rubbish and recycling in Norway

The first thing you'll notice about recycling in Norway is the use of colour-coded bins and bags. Different Norwegian regions may have variations in their approach, but the colour coding serves as a guide for proper disposal.

First off, here's a quick hack for newcomers to Norway - to determine how to dispose of waste in your municipality, you can just use the online platform Sortere, which provides an overview of colour codes and the types of waste suitable for each bin.

It's worth noting that rules can vary across the country, so make sure to check Sortere for your specific location.

But what happens if you make a mistake while sorting waste – or if someone ignores the Norwegian sorting rules altogether?

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The debate over penalties for wrong waste sorting

Penalties for incorrect waste sorting have been a topic of debate in Norway for several decades.

While recycling and waste sorting are widely encouraged, enforcing penalties has proven to be a challenging task.

In 2022, Oslo Municipality proposed imposing fines of up to 12,230 kroner for people who improperly sort their waste.

The move came after a waste analysis by Oslo's Waste Management and Recycling Agency found that a significant portion of recyclable materials ended up in the residual waste category.

The proposed infringement fee aimed to address situations where waste sorting regulations were not followed, even after written warnings.

However, the proposal never materialised. 

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Bins Bergen winter 2

When it comes to penalties for wrong waste sorting in Norway, regulations vary from one municipality to another. Pictured are rubbish bins in the winter in Bergen. Photo by: Robin-Ivan Capar / The Local. 

Challenges in structuring penalties

Enforcing penalties for wrong sorting in Norway has proven difficult in the past.

Organisations like OBOS, the largest housing developer in Norway, regularly express concerns about the feasibility of imposing fines on shared waste containers within housing associations.

They argue that such penalties could unfairly impact law-abiding residents and act as a sort of "collective punishment."

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The regulatory framework and different local initiatives

When it comes to penalties for wrong waste sorting in Norway, regulations vary from one municipality to another.

While many municipalities opt not to impose fines for incorrect waste sorting due to the associated challenges, there have been exceptions.

In 2016, Bærum announced plans to implement fines for those who refused to sort food waste properly. If residents failed to comply, the municipality would undertake the sorting work and bill the responsible parties accordingly.

Asker Municipality took a proactive approach by introducing food waste sorting back in 2011. Within a year, the average household significantly reduced food waste in residual waste.

In 2015, the municipality introduced travelling "rubbish detectives" to assess households' waste sorting practices and provide feedback through coloured notes on bin racks, encouraging better sorting habits.

In some municipalities, waste might not be collected if you don't sort it correctly. This is the case in municipalities covered by the waste management company Romerike Avfallsforedling IKS (ROAF), which serves over 200,000 residents of Aurskog-Høland, Enebakk, Gjerdrum, Lillestrøm, Lørenskog, Nittedal, and Rælingen.

On a more general note, the Norwegian Pollution Control Act and the Nature Diversity Act regulate littering and associated consequences.

The Pollution Control Act explicitly states that people must not dispose of waste in a manner that could harm the environment or create unsightly conditions.

In other words, littering is a punishable offence under this law.

However, identifying the responsible party and enforcing the rules has proven to be a daunting task in practice.

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