With its 7,300 km of coastline, Denmark is justly famed for its beaches and clean sea water for bathers. However, many of them are blighted by large amounts of plastic waste.
Yesterday, the results of a project under the auspices of the World Wildlife Fund and supported by supermarket chain owner Salling Group were revealed. Project Plastic Smart involved 40 families collecting rubbish along a 4.5 km stretch of ten hand-picked beaches during the same week in May this year.
Not so clean after all
By the end of the project over 6,000 items of plastic rubbish were found, weighing in at around 150 kilos. This included everything from cigarette filters, ice cream wrappers, and potato crisp and sweet packets, to detritus from the fishing industry such as ropes, nets and string. The most worrying thing, though, was the amount of stuff reduced to small pieces and microplastics.
“There’s no doubt there is far too much plastic out in Danish nature – also in places that at first glance look nice and clean,” said Bo Øksnebjerg, the secretary general of the WWF Verdensnaturfund.
Where is it from?
One of the main aims of the project was to find out exactly how much plastic was present, but also to see where it comes from.
“With project Plastic Smart we have managed to get an idea of exactly what types of plastic are out there, and that will enable us to go directly to the source to stop plastic pollution,” added Øksnebjerg
The type of plastic was found to vary a lot depending on the location of the beach. For example, on beaches close to towns plastic from picnics and takeaways tended to dominate, whilst on beaches near larger ocean areas the rubbish was from fishing gear and ropes.
Drifting with the current
The survey also revealed that plastic drifts with the ocean currents. In Denmark’s inner waters there were large amounts of Polish rubbish, while the north coast of Zealand revealed Swedish sweet packets and chewing tobacco containers. On the west coast the rubbish came from as far as Spain, the UK and the US.
“If plastic had some sort of value – for example, if you paid for it or if there was a deposit on it, then people would take it home again,” Øksnebjerg pointed out.
“There are three different areas where we need to action to remove plastic from Danish nature. It’s all about making demands to industry, educating consumers, and putting more pressure on international decision-makers in the EU and UN to stem the tide foreign plastic washing up on Danish coasts.”