Norwegian municipalities can grant an exclusive right to public waste plants. Photo: iStock.

Exclusive treatment rights and the export of waste ensure Norway’s environmental goals

The Norwegian Environment Agency recommends that Norwegian municipalities continue to be allowed to grant exclusive waste treatment rights. We are also against imposing restrictions on the export of waste to incineration plants abroad. 

Granting of exclusive treatment rights

An exclusive right entails a monopoly on providing a certain service, which excludes other actors from offering the same service within a certain area.

Norwegian municipalities can choose to treat the collected household waste themselves, purchase treatment solutions in the market, or give certain public plants an exclusive right to treat the waste.

The exclusive rights scheme is pursuant to the regulations on public procurement and has been set up in accordance with the EU Directive on Public Procurement.

Fewer and fewer Norwegian municipalities treat their waste themselves, and more of them buy treatment solutions in the marketplace or grant exclusive rights.

Currently, around 25 per cent of household waste from Norwegian municipalities is treated in plants that have been granted an exclusive treatment right.


Both Norwegian and foreign plants compete for Norwegian household waste.

In 2013 Norway exported a total of 650,000 tonnes of residual waste for energy recovery. Around a third of this amount is household waste.

The export of residual waste from Norway is sent almost in its entirety to Sweden for energy recovery.

Exporting waste from Norway requires the consent of the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Norwegian municipalities are responsible for the waste of their inhabitants. They can opt to treat it themselves or allow other actors to do the job on the basis of free competition.


Municipalities can also grant an exclusive right to public waste plants, whereby such plants are given a monopoly on treating household waste.

Exclusive rights can only be granted for tasks that cover the needs of the populace. Some actors claim that the scheme distorts competition and call for the regulations to be changed.

Today around a quarter of all household waste in Norway is treated on the basis of exclusive rights agreements. The Norwegian Environment Agency believes that such agreements help ensure that Norway has a sufficient capacity to treat household waste.

It is mainly the municipalities themselves that have built incineration plants for household waste and biogas plants for food waste. Without the exclusive rights, it seems likely that fewer municipalities would invest in such plants.

“The exclusive rights scheme ensures the long-term delivery of waste to the plants and makes the enterprise more predictable for the owners,” says Ellen Hambro, director general of the Norwegian Environment Agency.

“The scheme thereby makes it less risky to build and operate waste treatment plants. It also entails that the waste treatment will be secure and eco-friendly regardless of where people live. We therefore advise against changing the regulations and in favour of retaining the same regulations as in other EU/EEA countries.”

Stiff competition from Sweden

At the same time, Norwegian waste plants are facing stiff competition from incineration plants in Sweden. Large amounts of waste are being transported over long distances for treatment on the other side of the border, because that is less expensive.

“It may sound like a paradox, but our review shows that there are no clear-cut environmental advantages to imposing limits on the export of waste,” explains Hambro.

She points to facts such as the following:
** Sweden is more advanced when it comes to teleheating, so that the average degree of energy recovery from waste is higher in Sweden than in Norway. This compensates to a certain extent for the transport-related emissions.
** A long common border with Sweden means that in certain parts of Norway, Swedish incineration plants are the ones that are closest.
** We import more goods on lorries from Sweden than we export. There is therefore a surplus transport capacity on the return leg, and without waste transport many lorries would have returned to Sweden without carrying any cargo.

“A common waste market promotes cost-effective solutions,” says Hambro. “The Norwegian Environment Agency therefore advises against changing the regulations for the export of household waste, even though the EU regulations allow for limiting the export of household waste for energy recovery.”

A holistic waste policy

The Norwegian Environment Agency believes that Norway would do wise to continue cooperating with other countries on waste treatment. At the same time, we need to have a significant treatment capacity in Norway that doesn’t make us entirely reliant on exporting the waste.

“The current regulations concerning the granting of exclusive treatment rights and the export of household waste ensure that Norway has both an adequate treatment capacity and a well-functioning, cost-effective waste market,” Hambro concludes.


exclusive treatment rights:

senior advisor 
Bernt Ringvold
phone: 467 45 673

section head 
Thomas Hartnik
phone: 926 94 021

transport of waste for treatment:

senior advisor 
Christoffer Back Vestli
phone: 928 22 405

section head
Pål Spillum
phone: 908 38 384