Bottle Deposit: How “To Pant” in Norway

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Plastic recycling is a fundamental part of everyday life in Norway. That's made easier by the “pant” bottle deposit scheme. Here's how it works.

One of the many things I've had to adjust to in Norway is the different approach to waste and recycling. As with many countries, Norway collects and recycles plastic. But for plastic drinks bottles and aluminium drinks cans, there's a completely different system.

Plastic drinks bottles in Norway.

The “pant” in Norway is the deposit you pay whenever you buy a drink in a plastic bottle or aluminium can from a Norwegian supermarket. Typically two or three kroner depending on the size of the bottle, the pant makes drinks noticeably more expensive.

But, when you return the bottle to the supermarket, you get a refund of the deposit you paid. Simple! Now, let's look into the process in a bit more detail.

Using a pant machine

Returning items for the deposit has long been a part of Norwegian society. Most supermarkets contain “reverse vending” machines which take the bottles and cans in exchange for a receipt, which you cash in at the till.

Typically, the machine is located in the foyer of all supermarkets, but sometimes they are inside. In larger shopping malls, the machine may be located outside but near the entrance to the supermarket.

Pant bottle deposit machine in Norway. Photo: SiljeAO / Shutterstock.com.
Pant bottle deposit machine in Norway. Photo: SiljeAO / Shutterstock.com.

You can feed in other bottles and cans too (for example some cans from the duty-free don’t have pant) and the machine still takes them for recycling, you just don’t get any credit.

If you prefer, you can donate the refund to charity in some machines. This takes the form of a lottery. To enter, you press a button on the machine which donates the total amount. If you win, the machine will print out a receipt.

Collecting bottles and cans

According to Wikipedia, in 2005, 93% of all recyclable bottles and 80% of all drink cans in Norway were returned. This seems accurate. There's often a queue at the machines or if not then they're often full and bleeping away merrily because they are full or in need of service.

In addition, it's not just householders who collect the bottles and cans. One of my first memories of Norway was the number of folk actively hunting out bottles and cans on the streets. Some homeless, some not.

Three kroner pant charge on a drinks can in Norway. Photo: SiljeAO / Shutterstock.com.
Three kroner pant charge on a drinks can in Norway. Photo: SiljeAO / Shutterstock.com.

At one outdoor concert I counted at least four people wandering around with bulging black sacks full of discarded bottles. It sure keeps the streets clean.

It also encourages you to clear up after a house party. Here's some of the empties from a party I threw not so long ago, surveyed by my hungover friend Brian. I was refunded 63 kroner, which just about paid for the asprin…

Brian surveying the empties

I'm too young to remember the deposits on beer bottles in the UK (!) but I do remember the old system of getting your milk (and orange juice) from the milkman and returning the empties!

It's a shame those days are behind us because many local councils still can't recycle milk cartons = more waste!

Some other countries around Europe operate container deposit legislation but it's definitely the Nordic countries that lead the way. And in typical Nordic fashion, the system is straightforward, and the system works.

Take note, UK! Anyway, I have to go. I'm off to pant…

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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18 thoughts on “Bottle Deposit: How “To Pant” in Norway”

  1. Thank you for your lovely report on “panting” in Norway! On most of these machines you can choose not to get money for your bottles and cans, but instead donate the money to the Norwegian Red Cross! When you do that you also attend a lottery with a possibility of winning 2.000.000 kroner! Or smaller amounts, like from 10 kroner to 100.000 kroner! For every krone you donate you’ll get two tickets in the lottery! The machine will tell you if you’ve won right away! If you win 1.000 kr. or smaller amounts the shop will give you the cash. For larger amouts it takes about a week for it to occur in your bank account! I like this very much as it’s an easy and fun way to donate money. And you might win … (been there, done that …)! This is one of these things you should try at least once in Norway! Maybe you’ll be lucky! Maybe you’ll win money to finance you next party!

  2. Ahhh – I remember doing this in Sweden! And in Germany, all the beer bottles seem to have wear marks on their bodies that makes me think they must be fully reused (as opposed to just recycled).

  3. Container deposit laws are by far the most effective way to decrease litter/waste and increase recycling. They work well worldwide including many countries in Europe, most Canadian Provinces, parts of Australia, and some US states. For example, in the USA…the states with deposit programs recycle 75-95% of deposit beverage containers, while other states recycle under 30%. The ten deposit states recycle more containers than the other 40 states combined! So far national legislation has failed in the US, they are currently trying to pass it in Australia. Some European countries continue to use refillable beverage containers at a high rate, I think Norway, Sweden & Germany for example. Refillable bottles are the best environmental choice. Thank you for putting this page together and a great example of how recycling works in Norway. For more information about deposit programs see bottlebill.org and container-recycling.org

  4. I used to do this all the time in Oslo but now that I’m in the US it’s not worth the extra effort. The deposit is less (though possibly about equal relative to the cost of food) and bottle deposit centers are unpleasant places that are only open for a few hours a week.

  5. They had those same machines in California in 1990, they soon eliminated them because they actually paid your redemption value you paid when purchasing. Now we have recycling centers that pay $.01 on the plastic bottles we pay $.05 for and $.02 on glass which is also paid $.05 on purchase. The bottles clearly say “CA Redemption Value”, definition is you return it and get back the amount you paid in my book. I try to avoid anything not in an aluminum can because they actually pay fair for them.

  6. The United States “thinks” that they are the greatest country…reality says they are any thing but. We do not recycle our plastic/aluminum cans. The Norwegian countries, particularly Norway are exceptional.

    I am ashamed to say that I am from the US since there is little that I like about my home. Currently I am in Mexico for three months.

  7. In California I used to take my elderly mother (in her 80 until early 90s) to the recycling center in her town. She would save all bottles and cans for three months and we would put them in a machine that would give us a receipt that we could take into the grocery store to get the money on the returned recycling we had brought. Sadly, it was mostly the homeless or ‘dumpster divers’ that were recycling materials. My mother was the exception and was always thrilled to get money back for her effort and to do something positive for the environment. Eventually they closed this recycling facility. I wish the consciousness of the American people would be more in line with the Scandinavians and we would want to take care of our environment. Don’t get me wrong, there is a segment of our society that is committed to recycling of waste and renewable energy but it is a very small percentage of our population. I thank the Scandinavian societies for setting a wonderful example for the rest of the world that it can be done.


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