Advisors to the UK government have recommended Norway’s deposit system as a way to improve recycling of plastic bottles.
The scheme involves specialised machines which accept only certain approved types of plastic bottles. These bottles must also use approved labels and glue, which allow them to be quickly stripped and easily recycled.
Consumers pay a deposit of ~€0.10-30 (depending on the size of the bottle) when they purchase a bottle. A refund is then automatically issued by the machines when the bottle is recycled via one of the machines.
These machines are also able to sort the empty plastic bottles from those that still contain some liquid, which addresses a common concern with plastic recycling that the UK currently faces. When bottles that still contain liquid – or sometimes, other forms of rubbish – are put into bottle banks, this can cause cross-contamination which makes recycling difficult or even impossible.
How effective has the scheme been?
The scheme has been very successful, with some 98% of plastic bottles now being recycled in Norway. In the UK, only around half of all plastic bottles sold are recycled, meaning that such a scheme could offer a strong improvement.
Speaking to the BBC, Infinitum chief executive Kjell Olav Maldum said that the scheme was the most cost-effective, as well as being very successful: “There are other recycling schemes, but we believe ours is the most cost-efficient. We think it could be copied in the UK, or anywhere.”
He added that the strength of the scheme is that it shares the responsibility for recycling among the consumers who buy bottled drinks, retailers who sell them and the companies who produce them: “Our principle is that if drinks firms can get bottles to shops to sell their products, they can also collect those same bottles.”
Scotland has already committed to a recycling scheme for plastic bottles, although it has not yet released details on how this might operate. The UK recently announced a comprehensive strategy to tackle plastic waste and reduce marine litter. The European Commission has also announced an EU Plastics Strategy to tackle the problem at a broader scale.