How Oslo is Running out of Garbage

In the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden, garbage is a precious commodity. That’s because it is used to generate heat/electricity. And in the case of Norway’s capital, Oslo, there is a problem: the city doesn’t have enough garbage to burn:

Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

Part of the success has to do with the meticulousness of the citizens sorting the garbage:

Garbage may be, well, garbage in some parts of the world, but in Oslo it is very high-tech. Households separate their garbage, putting food waste in green plastic bags, plastics in blue bags and glass elsewhere. The bags are handed out free at groceries and other stores.

How difficult would it be to ship some of America’s garbage across the Atlantic Ocean to Norway?

Bieber Fever in Norway

School administrators on the west coast of Norway are preparing to deal with the return of “Bieber fever” by rescheduling exams in order to avoid conflicts that may arise due to the Beebs’ upcoming concert in Oslo. From The Wall Street Journal:

 Students at five schools in the town of Alesund will have their midterm exams moved to April 10 and April 11, a week earlier than scheduled. After all, Justin Bieber has a concert scheduled at the Telenor Arena in Oslo on the original testing dates of April 16 and April 17.

“We considered that this was a battle that we could not win this time,” Roar Aasen,  the principal of the Blindheim secondary school in Alesund, told national broadcaster NRK. He expects Mr. Bieber’s upcoming show to lead to sparse classroom attendance.

This year, half of the girls at Mr. Aasen’s school are expected to attend one of Mr. Bieber’s Oslo shows, according to interviews done by NRK. The Norway stop is the beginning of a Nordic leg of his current tour, which will take him through Copenhagen, two stops in Sweden and Helsinki.

Ridiculous.

Suspense in Norway: A TV Show on Firewood Burning

Everything about this New York Times piece about a national show that aired in Norway sounds like a joke. But it isn’t. The Norwegians are obsessed with firewood:

There is no question that it is a popular topic. “Solid Wood” spent more than a year on the nonfiction best-seller list in Norway. Sales so far have exceeded 150,000 copies — the equivalent, as a percentage of the population, to 9.5 million in the United States — not far below the figures for E. L. James’s Norwegian hit “Fifty Shades Fanget,” proof that thrills come in many forms.

“National Firewood Night,” as Friday’s program was called, opened with the host, Rebecca Nedregotten Strand, promising to “try to get to the core of Norwegian firewood culture — because firewood is the foundation of our lives.” Various people discussed its historical and personal significance. “We’ll be sawing, we’ll be splitting, we’ll be stacking and we’ll be burning,” Ms. Nedregotten Strand said.

But the real excitement came when the action moved, four hours later, to a fireplace in a Bergen farmhouse.

Perhaps you have seen a log fire burning on television before. But it would be very foolish to confuse Norway’s eight-hour fireplace extravaganza on Friday with the Yule log broadcast in the United States at Christmastime.

While the Yule log fire plays on a constant repeating loop, the fire on “National Firewood Night” burned all night long, in suspensefully unscripted configurations. Fresh wood was added through the hours by an NRK photographer named Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll, aided by viewers who sent advice via Facebook on where exactly to place it.

A typical reaction:

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.

You can’t make up the suspense. You’ve got to read the whole thing.

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Update: now would be a perfect time for me to recommend an enduring love story that I thoroughly enjoyed, Haruku Murakami’s Norwegian Wood.

The Great Norwegian Diaper Arbitrage

Matthew O’Brien reports on an interesting scheme going on in Europe: people from certain European countries are driving to Norway and emptying store shelves of diapers. Why? Because they can resell these diapers in their home countries for double the price.

There are lots of ways supermarkets can get customers in the door, and away from the competition. But in parts of Norway, cut-rate diapers have become the preferred lure. It’s set off something of a price war, which would be great news for Norwegian parents if they could actually find diapers in stock. They can’t. As Reuters reports, prices are so enticingly low that foreigners, mostly Poles and Lithuanians, have started trekking to Norway for the sole purpose of buying up every last diaper they can find. 
Here’s how the arbitrage math adds up. The ferry costs approximately $275 round trip, and gas is about $8 a gallon in Sweden, which, if we assume our car gets around 30 miles per gallon, gives us $435 in expenses. Throw in food, lodging, and other miscellaneous costs, and the total should come in around $600 or so. Remember, diapers costs more than twice as much in Lithuania as they do in Norway, so we only need to buy that much to break even. In other words, if we buy just $600 worth, which we can resell in Lithuania for double, we can cover our basic costs — and we can make enough profit to make the whole trip worth our while if we buy another couple hundred dollars worth. Of course, $1,000 worth isn’t very much when it comes to diaper arbitrage; Norwegian customs officials have seen people pack their cars with as much as $9,000 worth — good for more than $8,000 of profit. Not too shabby.
I don’t see how these prices can remain at such low levels in Norway for the foreseeable future…
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