Norway’s Capital Doesn’t Have Enough Trash to Help Power the City

Oslo, the country's capital, is running out of trash that it uses to help power the city

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Peter Dazeley / GETTY

In an age where there is an increasing demand to find alternatives to landfill sites, as well as a pressing need to reduce garbage production globally, Oslo, the capital of Norway, is experiencing an unusual problem with its trash: there’s not enough of it.

Certain countries across northern Europe have become key markets for waste-to-energy production, switching from traditional landfill sites that have been discouraged by European regulation to incinerators to produce energy. Norway has enthusiastically taken up this alternative, and the New York Times reports that nearly half of its capital and many of its schools are heated by burning garbage. However, this uncommon fuel supply is beginning to dwindle.

(MORE: Energy, Moving to Garbage Power)

The Hafslund Group, a Norwegian power company that produced and distributes heating in the city, says on its website that “the goal is to replace all fossil fuels for peak loads by 2016.” Current output in its facilities is 1.5 terawatt hours of power — enough to heat 150,000 homes.

In order to sustain that waste-energy production, the Norwegians plan on importing garbage — potentially from as far afield as the U.S. given how relatively inexpensive sea transportation is. There is a growing demand in northern Europe as countries like Austria and Germany plan on building more incinerating plants. Last year Sweden also ran out of garbage to burn and now plans to import nearly 800,000 annually to keep up with its energy production.

(MORE: This Stinks: Italy Sends Troops to Handle Trash Crisis)

But the Norwegians remain selective about their waste sources. While other parts of Europe, notably Italy, suffer from excess-garbage problems, Oslo is sticking with cleaner English waste, the Times reports.

Environmental groups however think the reliance on incinerators is only a short-term solution to environmental goals. “There is pressure to produce more and more waste, as long as there is this overcapacity,” Lars Haltbrekken, the chairman of Norway’s oldest environmental group, told the Times.

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