The international trade of consumer products is a regular occurrence and nearly everyone in the world is aware of its role in the global economy. However, how many people are cognizant of the fact that cities use imported garbage from neighboring countries and turn this waste into energy? I am guessing that not many people have heard of this phenomenon. This is exactly what is happening in the city of Oslo, located in southern Norway.
Oslo is city marked with an environmentally responsible mindset. Nearly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage and waste. The city uses both domestic household trash and industrial waste from local businesses to create energy. What makes Oslo interesting is that it also imports garbage from countries nearby including England, Ireland, and Sweden. Other cities are also following Oslo’s waste to energy model and a European waste market seems to have been created by this innovative practice, giving commodity-like value to garbage, surprisingly enough. However, Oslo has run into a slight problem. It has run out of waste to burn. This might not actually be a bad problem. After all, when was the last time you heard someone complain that they do not have enough garbage?
The diminishing waste problem is not unique to Oslo as many cities in Northern Europe have also adopted the waste to energy practice. While completely eliminating waste is essentially a good thing for the environment, households and businesses rely on having enough garbage to generate heat and electricity. How can these cities obtain the waste needed to produce electricity? Oslo has already begun to address this issue and is using international business tactics to solve the problem, which may come as surprise to many.
Since Oslo’s neighboring countries are also beginning to use waste to produce energy, Oslo has looked further abroad for “valuable” garbage. By engaging in trade with American and Italian companies, Oslo has been able to fill some of the void created by lower supply of waste in Northern Europe. This has allowed Oslo to continue to generate energy from waste and has also saved costs for international companies in disposing their industrial waste. While on a small-scale, the story above describes the advantages of international business practices and trade. The moral of the story may very well be, “In today’s business climate, thinking outside the box can be just as easily done by simply looking outside the border.”