Bilde: Katrine Lunke
in ,

Norway’s Infinitum: the long-standing recycling leader

Henry Ford invented the term ‘mass production’ in 1926 as part of his car company’s assembly line style of production and the natural follow-up of mass production is mass consumption, a notion that was to represent an entire new generation in the twentieth century – the consuming customer. With more and more companies rising to the challenge of delivering products in mass to satisfy the demand of their consumers, a side effect appeared – mass pollution. Every product discarded throughout the environment without a careful program of managing waste led to a higher number of non-degradable packaging into the soil. Recycling programs have thus started showing up as part of international agreements to reduce world pollution and promote environmental sustainability.

The Millennium Development Goals featured in the UN’s 2000-2015 promoted environmental sustainability where recycling was included, then was later picked on in the new Sustainable Development Goal list published in 2015 with an outcome expectation of 2030. Part of these programs, Norway has tackled this challenge in 1999 with the apparition of the “Norsk Resirk” (renamed into Infinitum after 2014) company that took up on Norway’s century old (1902) Deposit system law[1] and with modern technology implemented the recycling model which skyrocketed the country’s recycling recovery rate to 97%, in comparison to the United States which stands at roughly 35%[2]. The model, following a borrowing system, requires citizens to pay a small fee for every plastic bottle or metallic cans they purchase and after consuming its content, the empty canister can be returned to a gas station or a vending machine that returns the tax back to the consumer. This deposit system model works around the twelfth Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations 2030 SDG agenda, “Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns”.  The long-term implementation and use of this program stimulated several countries and even Coca Cola to implement similar recycling schemes as part of the global fight against pollution through efficient recycling of plastic.

One of Norway’s deposit model limitations is seen in Germany’s own recycling model, an almost identical system compared with Infinitum, and implemented quite a while ago as well. People pay a deposit tax for each PET bottle and can get it back once they turn the plastic recipient back to a vending machine, then the responsible recycling company processes the plastic waste into plastic flakes of high purity so that they can be turned into bottles again.  Peter Sundt, general secretary of the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organizations, Norwegian himself, points out that Infinitum’s high percentage recycling rate is actually a ‘return rate’ of how much waste did not end up polluting, the bottles ending up incinerated eventually, rather than being recycled, yet even with incineration instead of recycling, the rate is still very high.

            Differences aside, both of these models display solid results, whether it is Norway or Germany, the line isn’t drawn at the borders of those states and their models – quite contrary, we can learn from both of these countries. Take Germany’s plastic flake recycling system and Norway’s high recovery rate, combined together can only result in an even better system that can be exported to just about any country and slowly set a new recycling standard for 2030’s United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal agenda.


[1] http://anker-andersen.dk/deposit-laws/norway.aspx

[2] https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials

This media content was created as a part of Nordic level youth project about SDGs and youth media, supported by Norden 0-30 programme and a a partnership between Norsensus Mediaforum (Norway), Awesome People (Sweden) and City of Helsinki (Finland). Read more about the project here!

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