“It is fair to say that plastic has a bad environmental reputation at this point in time,” begins Mr. Maldum. “However, as long as you collect and reuse it, plastic is the most efficient material for drinks bottles. Compared to glass, plastic is lighter, which saves energy in transit. Seeing closed-loop, sustainable use of a high percentage of recycled plastic is something we really want to achieve.”
It is an aim that is winning many admirers, reports the Managing Director: “Our bottle deposit schemes have been expanding, as more politicians get on board with Infinitum’s philosophy. We have even gone beyond Norway. Frequently, international delegations visit the company, most recently from Scotland, India and Australia. Inspiring sustainable use of plastic globally is something we are particularly proud of.”
“Not only do we welcome the world,” Mr. Maldum continues, “but we go to the world with our model. Our interactions with foreign and domestic policy-makers and industry leaders help us build a network of like-minded people all working for similar ends. In person, and via social media, we want to reach and educate on this issue.
Dissecting their own approach, the director suggests it is a mistake to think Infinutum is a finished article: “While we have been looking to share our way of doing things, we have also been very aware that we have to look into other systems to find out how we could be doing better.”
This has led to big developments, like a German firm building a recycling plant next to the company’s sorting facilities, he explains: “This is one step towards a closed loop plastic system in Norway, and means less exporting of goods for recycling.”
Mr. Maldum points additionally to the smaller links in the chain: “The bottle deposit scheme relies on a lot of things, and optimizing each step has been key for us as a company moving forward. One thing we have been looking at is increasing uptake in small stores and petrol stations. The attitude of the staff members towards the scheme is so important, and we have been looking at ways to encourage this.”
Seeing closed-loop, sustainable use of a high percentage of recycled plastic is something we really want to achieve. Kjell Olav A. MaldumManaging Director
For Infinitum, optimizing the process is more about refining the principles, rather than any given product: “It’s ultimately about more than just plastic bottles, we want to include other products as well. In Norway, one of our first targets is fishing nets. Of course deposit schemes can’t be used for everything, but it has the potential to increase the efficient usage of many different kinds of products. Imagine a similar scheme for old cars or glass fibre bolts, a deposit fee as an economic incentive to return them would work. Compare this to the cost of not collecting these products and having to clean up the environment as a result.”
Infinitum presents a model for businesses, even as a non-profit. It has positioned itself as an enabler of radical change in the use of plastic goods in its native Norway and abroad. Its income of 300 million EUR in 2018, and the increasingly international nature of its work, attests to its market leadership, and to the success of its self-reflexive yet highly outward ethos.