Hazardous waste increasing faster than the economy (GDP)

Hazardous waste

A total of 1.48 million tonnes of hazardous waste was sent for approved treatment in 2016 – an increase of around 84 per cent compared to 2003. In contrast, the gross domestic product (GDP) and population have only increased by 23 and 15 per cent respectively in the same period.


Thus, the general trend is that hazardous waste sent to approved treatment is relatively high compared to the growth in the economy and population in general, according to updated figures from Hazardous waste.

In a shorter perspective – from 2015 to 2016 – hazardous waste has increased by 5 per cent.

35 per cent to recovery
Around 35 per cent of the approved waste treatment was recovered, i.e. either material recycled (17 per cent) or energy recovered (18 per cent). The remaining 65 per cent was disposed of.

Hazardous waste exports are included in the 1.48 million tonnes sent to approved treatment, but imported amounts are not. Thus, the figures on approved treatment comprise only hazardous waste generated in Norway.

Unknown treatment on its way down
Hazardous waste contains both health and environmentally hazardous substances. Thus, it is important to ensure that as much as possible of the hazardous waste is subject to proper treatment in order to avoid harming people’s health and the environment.

In addition to the 1.48 million tonnes sent for approved treatment, estimates are also made of the amount of hazardous waste sent for unknown treatment. This amount has been estimated at around 19 000 tonnes in 2016. Consequently, out of the estimated total amount generated, 98 per cent is believed to be sent for approved treatment, while the remaining 2 per cent is sent for unknown treatment and considered beyond ‘governmental control’.

Export of hazardous waste decreased 24 per cent
Export of hazardous waste showed a steady increase up until 2014, but this was followed by decreases in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the export amounted to around 250 000 tonnes – a decrease of 24 per cent. Simultaneously, Norway imported circa 305 000 tonnes of hazardous waste from abroad; up 19 per cent compared to the year before.

Imports are dominated by waste containing heavy metals destined for landfill in Norway, and also some waste oil for incineration. Exports, on the other side, are mainly made up of various types of oil-containing hazardous waste and heavy metal-containing waste.

Import and export of hazardous waste require approval from the authorities in order to ensure proper treatment in the receiving country.

Heavy metal and oil-containing waste dominate
In 2016, heavy metal-containing waste was the dominant category of hazardous waste, with around 540 000 tonnes sent to approved treatment. The next biggest group was oil-containing waste, constituting around 490 000 tonnes.

Oil-containing waste mostly encompasses waste from oil drilling activities on the Norwegian shelf, while heavy metal-containing waste consists of metal hydroxyl sludge, slag, dust and ashes from the manufacturing industry, as well as inorganic salts (including other solid materials), used sand from grit blasting and CCA-impregnated wood.

620 000 tonnes from manufacturing
Manufacturing industries sent 620 000 tonnes of hazardous waste for approved treatment in 2016, including treatment in their own facilities. This makes up around 42 per cent of all hazardous waste in Norway for that year. Another main contributor – with almost 380 000 tonnes – is the mining and quarrying industry, which includes oil extraction activities.

It has been estimated that households accounted for around 63 000 tonnes of hazardous waste sent for approved treatment in 2016 (based on declarations of hazardous waste). On average, this constitutes around 12 kg per person. Impregnated wood, paint residues and waste oil constitute the main Components.

Increased hazardous waste from Svalbard
The amount of hazardous waste from Svalbard commonly varies from year to year. In recent years, between 100 and 300 tonnes of hazardous waste have been sent annually for approved treatment. In 2016, the amount originating from Svalbard was 140 tonnes, an increase of 20 per cent compared to the year before. Oil-containing waste constituted 43 per cent of all hazardous waste from Svalbard.

Hazardous waste produced in Longyearbyen, Svea and New-Ålesund is transported to the Norwegian mainland for treatment there.


Source: SSB / Norway Today