Everything is running to schedule, or even ahead of schedule, when we visit the new plant in Heia in Fetsund one windy day in February. The recycling plant is still no more than an enormous empty shell – a shell that will soon be full of advanced machinery and busy workers.
Although the building is owned by Infinitum, the factory will be operated by Veolia PET Norge AS. This means Veolia will be factory manager Torben Beck’s new employer.
“Here there is going to be a machine as high as 14.5 metres,” says Beck, pointing towards the ceiling during our tour of the factory floor.
Numerous machines from a multitude of manufacturers are on their way and will soon fill the premises, where they will make up an automated and hyper-modern production line. They have their work cut out as the factory is expected to process 18,000 tonnes of plastic bottles every year from 1 January 2021.
Packaging from bottles can travel in a circular loop, from being returned to the PET material being used in new bottles. The plastic currently has to be sent to recycling facilities in Sweden, Germany or the Netherlands in order to pass through the link in the chain where the PET material from used bottles is turned into new raw material. Because oil is so inexpensive, the drinks manufacturers prefer to use new plastic to make bottles. The plastic bottles that are collected in Norway therefore frequently end up as simpler products that are discarded and incinerated after being used once instead of becoming new bottles.
CEO of Infinitum Kjell Olav Maldum is pleased that what has so far been the missing link in the chain will soon be up and running.
“If 80 percent of the raw material in new bottles was recycled material, the material in the bottles would, on average, be used five times in the closed loop. This would generate an annual reduction in domestic climate gas emissions of around 80,000 tonnes,” says Maldum.
The bottles that will be processed at the recycling plant will come from the building next door. It houses one of Infinitum’s three waste sorting plants.
The short journey across the yard between the two Infinitum buildings is highly valuable in itself. With the new NOK 200 million factory just a stone’s throw away, the journey will be dramatically shortened for the plastic bottles being recycled for use as raw materials in new plastic products.
Transport costs are cut when the links in the value chain are in such close proximity. And the lower the costs incurred by Infinitum, the lower the fees payable by its members.
Three shifts a day
“Once we are up and running we will be doing three shifts, five days a week.” This means working round the clock. The fact that there will only be four–five people per shift tells you something about how efficient the factory will be,” says Beck.
Veolia already has three factories similar to the new plant in Heia. The other factories are located in Sweden, Switzerland and Germany. The factory manager will undergo training in Sweden and Germany before the Norwegian launch.
The new plant will bring with it a new level of expertise on plastic recycling in Norway.