Recycling and waste disposal continues to be a widespread problem, but all hope is not lost. Environmental awareness has been increasing, and with it, countries around the globe have been coming up with innovative ways to manage valuable resources and cut back on waste. And indeed these countries have proven that there are always new solutions around the corner. Sometimes we just have to know where and how to look for them.
Northern Ireland, for example, began making extensive use of plastic carrier bags starting in 2013. Not only that, but their overall recycling efficiency has gone up in recent years, having just reached its all-time high of 51.5% of household waste being recycled. Many other countries have made progress of their own as well. Denmark too has been making significant progress in the amount of waste they recycle; they have made it their goal to reach a quota of at least 50% household waste being recycled by the end of 2020.
Sweden, meanwhile, has been doing fantastic. So much so, in fact, that they have needed to import waste from other countries just to keep their recycling plants busy and productive. They also hold the distinction of having less than 1% of their household waste end up in a landfill, a feat they have maintained since 2011.
Special acknowledgment must be given to Norway, who have mastered the process of recycling plastic waste. They have done so with the help of an organization known as Infinitum. Since 1999, Infinitum has been dedicated to the efficient depositing of plastic bottles and beverage cans, which is made possible through Norway’s national deposit scheme. Thanks to this process, Norway has been able to recycle 97% of all its plastic bottles.
So why haven’t more countries done as well as Norway in that regard? One of the biggest problems is cost efficiency. Recycling old plastic tends to be more expensive than simply creating new plastic, hence it’s a contributing factor to why there’s so much excess plastic waste to begin with. It’s unfortunate, but understandable all the same.
Norway, thankfully, has taken this into consideration. Their solution to the money problem is with money itself. Norway operates on a loan scheme, where a consumer buys a plastic bottle and is charged a small additional fee. This fee, however, can be redeemed. The consumer can either take the bottle to a machine which scans the barcode and returns the money, or else there’s gas stations and other shops which offer cash or store credit.
Even with such high recycling efficiency, there is always room for improvement. Even with over 95% of all the country’s bottles being recycled, as high of a statistic as that is, it still leaves an estimation of 150,000 bottles that will not be returned this year.
Still, Norway and Infinitum must be commended for the vast progress they have made already. It’s little wonder that other countries have reached out to Infinitum, hoping to adopt similar recycling plans for themselves.