Higher Danish recycling target proposed

Government approach to waste recycling criticised by independent commission

Danish waste recycling rates should be further increased in the early years of next century, according to a waste policy discussion paper released this week by the Danish environment ministry. The paper also recommends more cuts in waste landfilling and a stabilisation in the use of incineration.

Denmark has already exceeded an existing target to achieve 54% recycling of total waste by 2000, according to local authority officials. The discussion paper proposes to increase this now to 64% by 2004. Though the figure is high by EU standards, officials in the Danish Environmental Protection Agency describe it as unambitious. "I think we can do...better," one told ENDS Daily.

However, an independent expert committee this week criticised what it called the government's political preoccupation with recycling. Presenting a study of its own to parliamentarians, the Danish Technology Board (DTB) warned that recycling by itself would not deliver sustainable development and that current recycling targets missed important environmental aspects.

Because a significant proportion of Danish waste comprises streams such as demolition waste and coal power station fly-ash, the DTB says, government policy puts stress on increasing their recycling rates. In fact, it says, achieving high recycling of lighter substances such as plastics and aluminium, is likely to be much more important. Anne Rohmann of the DTB told ENDS Daily a more case-by-case approach was needed to assess the environmental impact of recycling different materials.

Recycling of some types of household waste is actually lower in Denmark than in several other EU countries because most municipal waste is sent to incinerators.

The discussion paper does in fact look at ways of increasing recycling of municipal waste, suggesting provision of paper collection bins to all households and some small businesses. This should achieve a doubling in paper recycling from the current 40% to 80%, the paper says.

Municipalities may also be expected to provide more collection and composting facilities for organic waste produced by households, and organise more separation of bulky waste objects.

The government also wants to remove hazardous substances from the normal waste stream (ENDS Daily 31 July 1997). In particular, it plans to divert PVC and treated wood found in construction waste, as well as electronic products, going to incinerators. Instead, it wants them to be recycled, or, failing this, landfilled.

Follow Up:
Danish environment ministry, tel: +45 32 66 05 77; Danish Technology Board, tel: +45 33 32 05 03.

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