Norway may be setting a precedent as their main bottle deposit hub currently successfully recycles 97 percent of plastic bottles.
And 92 percent of recycled waste is good enough to be transformed into more plastic bottles, creating a sustainable cycle of waste to manufacturing.
It’s already been widely reported that sea-life, such as whales, fish and tortoises (to name a few) have been found to have plastic waste in their digestive tract.
Studies of live mammals and of washed up dead sea life revealed the extent of the problem. Figures from the UN Environment Programme report that 480 billion plastic bottles are produced annually and the disposal of plastic waste has evidently affected more than 100,000 sea mammals.
An organization, named Infinitum, is responsible for collecting, processing and recycling plastic bottles and cans throughout Norway. Every day they process around 160 tonnes of material, and have cheerfully claimed that 92 percent of their recycled waste is to such a high standard that more plastic bottles can be produced from it.
Sten Nerland, director of logistics and operations, says:
“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.”
How has Norway achieved this?
For a start, since 2011, companies can pay less tax the more they recycle waste and if a nationwide target of 95 percent or more is reached then absolutely no tax is paid.
As for customers, they have adjusted their ways as they have to pay a deposit on items in plastic containers which requires them to return the bottles for recycling. There are even vending machines where consumers can empty their waste claim their deposit back.
Other countries lag far behind. The UK has a recycling grade of around 43 percent, while the United States trails even further at 28 percent. Will they take a leaf out of Norway’s book and turn the tide on such a dismal rate?
“I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be adopted by those countries” said Tor Guttulsrud, who is Infinitum’s director of economics and finance.
The UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove stated in February 2019 that he pursuing with the agenda to place tax on various items that contain plastic, glass and cans.
Even companies like the Co-op have taken action by changing their preffered choice of plastic bottle for their own-brand water to be made of 50 percent recycled plastic.
Of course, governments and companies can take responsibly, but consumers need to act too.
There is evidence that demonstrates that plastic bag usage fell by 85 percent when the introduction of the 5p per bag policy came into effect. It shows that when faced with a cost, consumers would readjust their habits where as before using plastic is just taken for granted.
Guttulsrud insisted that if we all could return the plastic bottles we use, then the production of virgin plastic could drastically decrease by even 90 percent.
Right now, convincing people to willing do this is very hard. Norway have clearly demonstrated a working system that can be adopted in any country. Infinitum have even had visitors from all over the world from China, India, Rwanda and Australia. So there is light at the end of tunnel.
By providing incentives to companies and making it easier for consumers to dispose of their waste, plastic pollution can be a thing of the past.