Oslo, the European Greenest Capital, Trash Apart!

On 2nd June 2017, Oslo has officially won the European Green Capital Award for 2019. These prestigious title was awarded by the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, at an awards ceremony in Essen, Germany, the current European Green Capital.

Oslo are evaluated by an expert panel based on 12 environmental indicators, which include local transport, biodiversity, air quality, waste management and noise. Among the benefits of winning the Award are new jobs and increase in tourism.

In fact, Oslo is well popular among the tourists for its parks, protected forests, hills, hundreds of lakes that are an integral part of Oslo’s cityscape and are easily accessible from almost everywhere in the city.

But probably few know that, according to the luftkvalitet.info, that presents national information on air quality, in Oslo the levels of fine solid particles in atmosphere are higher than the health authorities recommend in their air quality criteria. Or that the Norwegian capital has been having hard times in the last six months, struggling with organizing an effective garbage collection and trying to avoid Oslo becoming a «Norwegian Napoli», to quote Andreas Slettholm, the commentator to the Norwegian Aftenposten!

Today 85% of Oslo citizens sort food and plastic waste. The other 15% do not know that waste sorting is mandatory. To remediate this the Renovations office of Oslo municipality has knocked 163 000 doors since 2012 and conducted talks with 60 000 people.

However, it seems that the waste management is bigger challenge than the waste sorting.

In October 2016 a new company, Veireno, became responsible for the waste collection in Oslo after having won a competition by presenting a project with total cost of 419 million Norwegian crones. 81 million less than the closest competitor. As soon as the company took over, the period of trash chaos and overflowing garbage boxes started. The leadership of the company explained that according to the new project new routes of garbage collection have been introduced. Combine it to new cars employed and new keys to the city’s buildings, and it becomes obvious that it takes some time to get used to new routines and resume the efficient and effective workflow.

In any case, the company has not got used to the new routines and after just 5 months, a bankruptcy proceeding was requested by Veireno’s leadership. The short company’s garbage adventure ended with significant merit: over 30 000 trash complaints from angry Oslo citizens, 1728 cases of lost keys to the city’s buildings and over 2000 breaches of the Working Environment Act, according to the research held by Dagbladet.

In February 2017, the municipality took over the liability for garbage collection in Oslo. Since then the average of complaints from citizens has been of 512 per week. «Had we received so many complaints that the municipality now receives, we would receive700 000 crones in fines each month,» says Veireno owner Jonny Enger to Aftenposten.

«We are still in a phase where we try out various measures to get the collection as good as possible, but we would rather have lower complaints now, there is no doubt» says Bakke Fredriksen, Communication Adviser at the Renovations Office.

In the current situation, the Oslo municipality is urged to elaborate a functioning strategy instead of trying isolated measures to become a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices and experience as a winner of the European Green Capital Award and to avoid  hearing that «all that glitters is not gold».