Monday, 22 March 2010


It’s not hugely glam, but I am spectacularly interested in rubbish. Garbage, trash, surplus, waste, whatever you might wish to call it, it is ‘stuff’ we don’t want and there’s too much of it. 

As I sit here, I am excitedly anticipating the welcome roar of the bin lorry as it arrives to pick up our household rubbish. When one is trying to organise a house in preparation for a move, the picking up of rubbish becomes a manic preoccupation in an effort to ensure that every pick-up opportunity is properly used to maximum potential.

This all started because the first time our rubbish was collected, I noted the amount we had produced was less than half of the amount we had been producing at home. I was already a recycling dictator back home, intolerant of any family member who did not strictly adhere to the recycling opportunities offered by our local authority. So how come my bin in Norway was so much emptier? We were consuming the same amount of food and other goods, and yet the rubbish we put into the ‘general’ collection barely covered the bottom of the bin. At home, our general rubbish bin was almost impossible to close, and needed mammoth force and weight to ram the lid down.

We know that Norway has a reputation for being rather good at recycling, so perhaps I should not have been surprised. There is the threat of being fined here, if you do not recycle correctly, so one pays attention. As a result, we have a small room more or less devoted to rubbish, with a variety of slots, boxes, bags and bins for accuracy of processing. A part of every weekend is devoted to dealing with our rubbish.

The system here is complicated, so I won’t go into details... you have a life to live, and the intricacies of Norwegian waste disposal could fill a three volume novel. Suffice to say, even after several weeks, I still had to consult the rubbish instruction manual on a regular basis to ensure I was folding my milk cartons at the correct angle.

Eventually, however, I got to grips. I promise to be brief. A kerbside collection revolves around various coloured bins. Grey is for general rubbish (fortnightly collection), brown for organic waste (fortnightly), green for paper (monthly) and a specially provided bag for plastic (monthly). We then dispose of glass and tins, old clothes and shoes at various collection stations which are conveniently placed in various car parks. Electrical, toxic and other complex items have to be dealt with separately and with care.

None of this sounds very different from home, so far. But there are one or two subtleties, the most pleasing of which lies in the hilariously named system of ‘pants’. I know it is childish, but hours of mirth have resulted from this curious word, which means, as it turns out, ‘deposit’. Various bottles and cans have a ‘pant’ mark on them, so a stash of these can be stored until some lucky person, usually a child, finds it. The ‘findee’ may take it to the supermarket, feed each item into a machine and receive a most satisfying voucher for the shop. Why we don’t have this system in the UK is beyond me, although I have been reliably informed it is too expensive and unworkable to initiate.Hmm.

The Brits have always felt like the poor relations as far as recycling goes. But my rubbish obsession and careful study over several years has led me to believe that most Brits are not really so very bad at recycling. Many are as obsessive as me, and find the notion of it strangely pleasing. I am convinced that if a system is provided to recycle, the majority of Brits will do it. The problem seems to be that we create more rubbish in the first place, much of which is packaging, so not entirely our own fault.

I haven’t even started on the ‘going to the dump’ experience here in’s too big a topic to include for now, but, if you can stand it, I may come back to it. For now, I am interested to read that a Scottish Government ‘key target’ is to have no more than 5% of municipal waste going to landfill by 2025. So I have something to look forward to on my return to Scotland then....after three years of being away, will my bin lid need to be squished down using force, or will the bin be as empty as it has been in Norway?

Such are the thrills and excitements of moving home and country.


  1. I love this blog and look forward to it each time with a nice cup of tea.... I too have become obsessed even more with recycling since I've been here. The Norwegians are much more organised and I applaud that there are no hard fast rules with regard to the recycling of plastic - not like back home!! However, I do remember being a wee girl and keeping our coca-cola and lemonade bottles for the Bon Accord mannie to collect and deduct the empties from our new delivery - was the same not for the 'ginger' bottles in Glasgow?? If Norway can do this, then why cannot Scotland have a go with perhaps our own Irn Bru? Mmmm, brings back memories!!

  2. I agree with Pamela.

    In Scotland - it was only white paper that could be recycled, when I left. In Norway - it is all paper and all cardboard together with milk and juice cartons (the plastic spouts removed of course).

    The same with plastic - it is any grade of plastic and polystrene.

    The organic waste includes garden and kitchen vegetable waste, but also any other food waste (meat, bones, bread etc). What I have never understood is how this is dealt with in Norway.

    Pants for Scotland sounds good!

    Lovely story - a wee girl in a restaurant is asked if she'd like ginger with her melon. "Yes please!" she replied, "I'll have some Iru Bru".

    Norman Scott

  3. There is an on-going advertisement in the Stavanger newspaper: "If a gadget dies you must return it to where it was born". Aaawww... All supermarkets/electrical stores are obliged to receive broken electrical goods, whether it being a fridge or the smallest AAA battery. So remember to bring your old light bulb next time you go shopping at Coop!
    And I need to brag about "Bruktbua" at the local tip: Here you can dump any unwanted goods you don't want anymore for others to take home free of charge. Maybe your Grandma's slippers will get a second life! Only snag is that you tend to come home with just as much "unwanted" stuff as you dumped. But hey, nothing wrong with a makeover in those storage cupboards!

  4. Hello, Jane! I am enjoying your blog. Having read this entry, however, I am more disheartened than ever about our puny recycling "efforts" in my little corner of the US. I'm not saying it's this bad everywhere, but here, it's abysmal. If I may rant for just a minute: we get one teeny, tiny yellow box (about twice the size of a milk crate) in which to place all our recycling for a week. Aluminium cans, milk cartons, newspapers, glass bottles - it's all supposed to go in there. Needless to say, we end up making our own run to the neighborhood recycling skip. Reading about your beautiful system has given me rubbish collection envy. Cheers!

  5. Anne in US,,,all I can say is, we used to have no recycling in the UK, and now we have an extraordinarily complex system, which seems to change often. I exepct these things take time but a little lobbying can go a long way. Good luck!
    Anne in Norway...does one have to pay to go into the 'Bruktbua' bit of the tip?

  6. Jane, if you want to dump stuff in Bruktbua, you pay a flat fee of 100kr for everything you can stuff into your car. If you want to pick up stuff to take home then you can fill your car for free. A great way to get rid of stuff you think is too good to throw away but not good enough to sell.

  7. As I sit here,eve isk I am excitedly anticipating the welcome roar of the bin lorry as it arrives to pick up our household rubbish. When one is trying to organise a house in preparation for a move, the picking up of rubbish becomes a manic preoccupation in an effort buy eve isk to ensure that every pick-up opportunity is properly used to maximum potential.