In Oslo, the collaboration between the municipality and the population has resulted in an efficient use of resources. The city has set an overall target to reduce its CO2 emissions by 95 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. One of the measures needed to achieve this target is an integrated waste management system, which Oslo launched in 2006 with its Waste Management Strategy (WMS), aiming to establish a “recycle and reuse” society10. The citizens sort their waste at home using a system of color-coded trash bags that are collected by the municipal Agency for Waste Management and brought to the waste facilities. Once there, the Waste-to-Energy Agency sorts the household waste and produces district heating, biogas and biofertilizer. This resource-focused way of thinking is the main force behind a circular economy approach that is needed to reach the target of carbon neutrality.
Cities consume about 75 percent of global energy and emit between 50 and 60 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases12. The global waste problem is also increasingly linked to urbanisation as the growing number of cities are becoming mass producers of waste13. Efficient waste management systems are key to meet the targets of carbon neutrality and greater energy and resource efficiency in any city.
Good practices and solutions
Using a system of color-coded trash bags, the waste that is produced by the city is sorted through an optical separation system at waste management sites Haraldrud and Klemetsrud, where green bags containing food waste and blue bags with plastic packaging are separated automatically from the residual waste. The food waste, together with other biological materials, becomes biogas and biofertilizer, while the plastic waste is handled by Grønt Punkt Norway (Green Dot Norway) and ends up as new plastic products. The residual waste is incinerated and becomes district heating for Oslo’s population11. The system makes it easier for the citizens to correctly dispose a vast majority of their produced waste, at the same deposit sites only using differently coloured bags. This also makes the transportation of waste more efficient as all waste pickups can be centralized to fewer locations. Today, only two colours are used for identification, green and blue. However, there is no limit to the number of colours that could be used for sorting and therefore has the potential for upscaling.
Outcomes and opportunities
A key to the success of the Oslo waste management system is that it required no logistical changes to the existing waste management system and could be implemented rapidly – contrary to the alternative of adding more waste containers and routes for the collection vehicles. As of now, 21 percent of the plastic, 64 percent of glass and metal, and 76 percent of paper and cardboard are recycled. In addition, it seems that by making food waste visible, the system has had an educational effect, making the citizens more aware about the volume of food that is wasted, as the total volume of food waste has reduced by 5 percent since the system started.
Related SDG targets
- 9.B Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
- 13.B Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities
- 15.9 By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts.
Photo: © Markus Spiske / Unsplash
Project: Circular Baltic 2030