Hidden household waste sorting costs revealed

Norwegian statistics agency finds householders consume 100GWh of electricity annually

Collecting, sorting, cleansing and transporting Norway's household waste for recycling consumes at least 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) in energy annually, according to the national statistics agency SSB. The figure represents half the output of a proposed new power station at Beiarn.

Noting that the need to wash "everything from milk cartons to mackerel tins" accounts for much of the expenditure, Nationen newspaper has interpreted the cost as "a vulnerable entry in the national energy balance sheet".

SSB's conclusions are based on a 1999 survey of 1,162 Norwegians aged 16 to 79. Respondents estimated that they spent almost 30 minutes and used 50 litres of water each week to organise and prepare their rubbish for collection. When transport was included, average annual time spent per household was 41 hours, which works out at 186 hours per tonne of waste collected.

About 40% of those surveyed said they used hot water, at an average annual cost for electricity of NKr63 (euros 7.9) per household. Seventy per cent said they would be willing to pay others to do the job. Average willingness to pay was NKr176 per year, equivalent to NKr800 per tonne of collected waste on average.

According to the SSB, the survey shows that people have many different motives in separating their waste at source. The most popular, with 97% support, was to improve their environment. Over 60% perceived the chore, partially or entirely, as an obligation imposed by the government; 73% agreed that they liked to think of themselves as "responsible", and 88% that they felt they should do as they wished others to do. About 38% said they enjoyed it.

Follow Up:
SSB, tel: +47 62 88 45 00, and details of SSB's household waste sorting survey.

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