Danish public urged to back WEEE recycling

Government launches publicity campaign, aims to more than double electroscrap collection

A punchy public awareness campaign was launched this week in Denmark, in a bid to more than double the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The campaign backs up an ordinance that came into force in January, requiring all municipalities to organise separate collection of electroscrap at local collection points.

Denmark produces high volumes of electroscrap - about 20 kilograms per inhabitant each year - reflecting consumption patterns in what an environmental protection agency (EPA) official termed a "rich, design conscious country." Not all of it appears in the waste stream, since some items tend to be hoarded. However, large quantities of smaller products, such as electric toothbrushes, mobile phones and radios, are regularly thrown away in household rubbish.

It is estimated that about one-third of electroscrap arisings are currently recycled, placing Denmark comfortably above the 4kg per capita target in the EU's draft WEEE directive published earlier this summer (ENDS Daily 13 June). The EPA wants to raise this to 75% by focusing public attention on the resources locked up in electroscrap materials as well as their environmental hazards.

The agency estimates that 60% of all copper and 40% of all lead currently being dumped or incinerated in Denmark comes from electroscrap. To drive home the message that waste comes back to haunt us, a television advertisement features a woman throwing her old vibrator into in the sea, only to have it publicly rescued by her dog.

The section of the draft directive currently giving rise to most concern in the EPA relates to producer responsibility. "Almost all our electrical [equipment] is currently imported," an official told ENDS Daily. "We have no tradition of producer responsibility, but rather one of strong municipal involvement so we are looking hard at how to respond in this area."

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00. See also special campaign website.

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