Norway Recycles 97% of Its Plastic Bottles: A Blueprint for the Rest of the World?

Our planet has become alarmingly polluted by plastic, especially our oceans endangering so many wildlife species. The production of plastic has become massive as there are many single-use plastic items that are being disposed; in fact 40% of the plastic produced on yearly basis is single-use plastic items that are non-biogradable.

All that plastic is a big issue to dispose and when disposed they can stay in Nature for centuries. We mostly use plastic bottles and according to the UN Environment Programme every year 480bn new plastic bottles are being produced, and most of them end up in the ocean or landfills. Plastic waste pollutes our oceans and as well as kills more than 100,000 sea mammals and a million birds every year.

Many countries have become aware of this rising issue and they are trying to find a way how to minimize the production of plastics. Norway has come up with an efficient way to recycle plastic bottles, via an organization Infinitum and its name was “inspired by the infinite number of times you can recycle a bottle or can in our deposit scheme. “

Thanks to the recycling plan of this company Norway recycles amazing 97% of all plastic drink bottles and 92% are reused for the production of more bottles. In fact, some of the bottles have been recycled more than 50 times.

The Infinitum’s website states the following:

Our sole purpose is not an economic profit, but to always increase the number of collected beverage containers our eco-friendly, cost-effective deposit scheme can handle. We are strongly motivated to contribute to a better environment, thus we have invested in new, highly effective and modern recycling facilities. This ensures a clean environment and a better future.”

This organization has created an ideal system where the caps are being checked, the glue, and label materials. After that a small amount of virgin material is being added and the recycling can start. The main warehouse near Oslo processes 1,500 containers of materials on daily basis.

Sten Nerland, director of logistics and operations, maintains:

We are the world’s most efficient system. As an environmental company, you might think we should try to avoid plastic, but if you treat it efficiently and recycle it, plastic is one of the best products to use: light, malleable and it’s cheap.”

The Efficient Norwegian System for Plastics

The companies are being incited to recycle, namely, the more companies recycle, the less tax they have to pay. This incentive has reached a collective nationwide target of over 95%, and it has not changed since 2011. As a result of their follow-up they don’t pay any tax at all.

The Norwegian regulations oblige the producers to use only approved labels, bottle tops, and even glue. The process starts by collecting empty bottles in compressed cubes. Bottles are shredded, cleaned and dried into plastic flakes, and ready to be reused, and the cans are melted into sheets.

The customers, on the other hand, pay a deposit for each bottle they purchase which is being refunded. The government has provided hundreds of ‘reverse vending machines’ that return their deposit after scanning the barcode of the deposited bottle. Customers can even go to small shops and gas stations for cash or store credit. So, they see bottles as loan that they need to return back.

The goal of Infinitum is explained by Kjell Olav Maldum, the CEO: “We want to get to the point where people realize they are buying the product but just borrowing the packaging.” 

Regarding this issue Infinitum’s Guttulsrud states:

 “Norway will still be challenged by the effects of oil consumption, as the rest of the world will be. But we’re not trying to reduce the use of plastic – we’re trying to reduce the creation of new, virgin plastic. Each year we get closer.”

He maintains that if every person returns the used bottles the production of virgin plastic will decrease by 90%.

The Norwegian system has inspired other countries, and according to Tor Guttulsrud, the facility’s director of economics and finance, they have been visited by representatives from many countries interested to introduce this recycling system in their own countries. Yet, there is certain hesitation about this system that focuses on the production of plastic because producing plastic relies on burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.

Nonetheless, this country tries its best to reuse the already existing plastic and thus lower the number of plastic bottles floating in our waters.