Denmark throws away too much plastic, recycling could save millions: report

A new report has found that Denmark is not recycling as much plastic as it could, resulting in wasted potential.

Denmark throws away too much plastic, recycling could save millions: report
File photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

More recycling of plastic could benefit consumers and businesses as well as help protect the natural environment, according to the report, which was produced by the public Innovation Fund Denmark in partnership with consultancy firm McKinsey.

Up to 1.6 billion kroner could be earned annually if all plastic in the country was recycled, the report found.

“Denmark is very, very bad (regarding) reusable plastic, and that is because, for many years, we have burned our waste using incinerator plants,” Innovation Fund Denmark director Peter Høngaard Andersen said.

“The problem is that plastic is not being reused, so we are producing more CO2 than we should,” Andersen added.

Almost 60 percent of all Danish plastic waste ends up at incineration plants.

In order to reduce that figure, analysts suggest using a similar method to the current ‘pant’ system, in which a small surcharge is paid on purchases of bottles and cans.

The surcharge, or deposit, is paid back to consumers when bottles and cans are returned via specialised machines, which are located at most supermarkets.

That would not necessarily mean ‘pant’ being applied to other types of packaging, but applying more charges to plastic packaging would give companies greater incentive to reuse.

“This is about collecting, reusing and recycling (plastics) into new packaging, like with bottles and cans,” Andersen said.

Business and households produce 340,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually, the equivalent of around 60 kilograms per person.

Consumers can also play a role in reducing plastic wasteage, Andersen said.

“As a consumer you can be aware about avoiding using plastic as much as possible,” he said.

“That could mean purchasing meat wrapped in paper instead of plastic, or consciously sorting waste,” he said.

The 1.6 billion-kroner figure given in the report is attributed to savings that could be made from reduced imports of plastics and oils used in their production.

Gains are also to be made from jobs created by finding more ways of reusing plastic.

The European Union has a target of 50 percent of all plastic coming from recycling by 2050.

The conclusions of the report are to be presented at a conference at UN City in Copenhagen on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Danes are sorting more plastic waste than ever before, but very little gets recycled


‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.