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Norway has efficient bottle recycling – here’s how India can repeat the success story

Beating plastic pollution is at the heart of this year’s World Environmental Day, and a topic that Norway has worked with for years. The Norwegian system for recycling plastic bottles is close to perfect, with a recovery rate of more than 95 percent. As plastic pollution is becoming a major environmental problem, how can India learn from Norway’s experience?

The bottle recycling system in Norway is a huge success, and has led to a national recycling-boom. The idea of bottle recycling is very simple: Norwegians pay ten percent more for each bottle or can of drink they buy, which acts as a deposit. Almost all grocery stores in Norway has reverse vending machines that accept used beverage containers. Empty plastic bottles and cans can be fed it into the machine, which scans the barcode on the bottle and gives the customer a receipt. The receipt can be cashed-in at the cashier in the shop, and in this way, the deposit is returned to the consumer.

Individual bottles can be recycled up to twelve times. The recycler sorts, shreds, cleans and dries the plastic bottles into plastic flakes, so called preforms. Producers buy these preforms for the production of new bottles.

The whole recycling process is sponsored by soft drink companies as part of their extended producer responsibility. In turn, they are rewarded by a lower tax bill. The bottle recycling system also benefits small-shop owners, who are paid a minimal sum for each bottle that is collected by their machines.

In Norway, the idea of depositing bottles for recycling came already in 1902. A small deposit fee was early introduced to make people return their glass bottles after use. The current deposit scheme with plastic bottles and cans was introduced more than 40 years ago, and has led to a recycling boom in Norway. Today, more than 80 percent of the municipal waste in Norway is either recycled or used in waste-to-energy processes.

Now, the Norwegian bottle recycling company TOMRA is looking into the Indian market. TOMRA is the world’s largest reverse vending machine producer, and collects 35 billion beverage containers through automated collection solutions in 30 markets worldwide every year. The idea of bottle recycling has also reached India, and the Maharashtra state government has signaled the development of a bottle deposit system of their own.

The political decisions taken by the Maharashtra state government is very encouraging, and Norway will be glad to assist in this endeavor, says Ambassador Kamsvåg.