‘More recycling, less rubbish’: minister wants Denmark to cut down on trash

Households in Denmark should ready themselves to sort and recycle their waste more than they do today.

'More recycling, less rubbish': minister wants Denmark to cut down on trash
A Danish handout outlining sorting of household waste. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

New Minister for the Environment Lea Wermelin says that Denmark can improve its waste management relative to current practices in the country.

“The clear message to all Danes is that we are going to intensify our green ambitions regarding trash,” Wermelin said.

The average household in Denmark produced 600 kilograms of waste in 2016.

Almost half of that rubbish – 48 percent – was sorted for recycling.

But that leaves plenty of room for improvement, according to Wermelin.

“Our record compares poorly to the rest of Europe – we are the ones with the worst waste figures.

“That’s why it’s important that we do something to reduce waste volume and increase recycling. This is an area I plan to focus on,” she said.

One area in which changes can be expected is the sorting of rubbish in different municipalities. Currently, the extent to which different types of waste are sorted and collected varies between municipalities.

An example of this is bio waste, which is collected in specially-provided green bags and bins in Copenhagen Municipality, but other areas do not provide similar facilities.

Textiles, plastic and electronics were named by Wermellin as areas in which recycling can be increased.

“We need more sensible sorting of waste and we need to get Danes behind the project. I think they will be (behind it),” she said.

Municipal waste management firms were positive regarding new environmental initiatives on rubbish collection.

Mads Jakobsen, a city councillor in the Struer municipality in western Jutland, is also chair of the Dansk Affaldsforening association, which represents waste management companies.

“We are well underway with development of a more unified collection system across municipalities. You just need to be aware there is a difference between living in an apartment, detached housing or a holiday home,” Jakobsen said.

“That’s why individual considerations are necessary in the various municipalities,” he added.

Dansk Affaldsforening is currently in discussion with the food industry regarding potential markings on packaging which will aid correct separation of waste.

“That’s the next step and will make it much easier to sort (waste),” Jakbosen said.

READ ALSO: Denmark's Roskilde Festival creates a city's worth of rubbish. What are organizers and guests doing about it?

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‘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.