Science Round-Up: Unknown amount of Danish plastic ending up in Asia – The Post

Science Round-Up: Unknown amount of Danish plastic ending up in Asia

Elsewhere, Danish babies can be treated for jaundice at home and volunteers can get funding for cleaning beaches

Bound for Berlin? Or Beijing? Who knows?(photo: Pixabay)
September 5th, 2019 3:34 pm| by Christian W

As Denmark continues to strive towards its 2030 sustainability goals, recycling is increasingly becoming part and parcel of the effort.

But something seems to be off in regards to the recycling of plastic in the country, following revelations that a significant share of Danish plastic is being shipped off to other countries where it is unknown whether it is being recycled at all.

For instance, much of the Danish plastic is sent to Germany for recycling and upwards of 50 percent of it is sent on to other countries, such as in Asia, where it is impossible to trace.

“There is probably a lot of plastic that isn’t being recycled, but official statistics are unreliable, because much of the trade involves informal contracts between private individuals or small companies,” Gang Liu, a global circular economy researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, told Videnskab.dk.

Liu revealed that some of Denmark’s plastic was exported to China to be recycled into toys, plastic bags and pipes, but China started banning the importation of plastic two years ago. Despite this, there are no indications that less plastic is ending up in Asia.

READ ALSO: Danish PM wants to ban free plastic bags

Still in the dark
According to Liu, developing countries are interested in obtaining plastic from wealthier nations because it is cost-effective due to cheaper labour, they have more lax environmental demands, they already produce much of the world’s plastic products, and they get rebates from shipping companies for full-loads in both directions.

The researcher hopes to shed light on where Denmark’s plastic ends up in the future, and that’s in line with the government, which is also looking into the matter.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen closing in on plastic cup ban

A recent Environment Ministry report (here in English) found that “additional effort” was required.

Some 3,100,000 tonnes of plastic were imported into Denmark in 2016, while 2,500,000 tonnes were exported in the same year.


Poor people age faster
Researchers from the Center for Healthy Ageing at the University of Copenhagen have found that poorer people age faster than wealthier people. The research showed that four or more years spent living under the poverty line during adult life brings on premature ageing. The findings revealed that those who had lived in poverty had lower hand strength, more difficulty remembering things and  higher inflammation levels in their bodies. The results have been published in the European Journal of Ageing.

Angioplasty better for blood clots
A new Danish research project from Aarhus University Hospital has further confirmed that the comprehensive DANAMI-2 study from 16 years ago was correct in ascertaining that blood clot patients got better results from angioplasty treatment at a heart centre, compared to being treated with blood-thinner medication at a local hospital. The new research has found that patients with a blood clot in the heart postpone a new blood clot or death by over a year if treated with angioplasty rather than blood-thinner meds. DANAMI-2 documented that significantly fewer patients got another blood clot within 30 days of being treated if they were given an angioplasty, and that it led to a change in treatment protocol in Denmark and abroad.

Volunteer funds for cleaning beaches
Citizens who volunteer to clear trash from beaches in Denmark can now apply to get funding for their efforts – such as for plastic bags, renting trailers to move the rubbish, or food and drink for those participating in the clean-up. The beach-cleaning funds – 3.6 million kroner annually – are part of several new government initiatives aimed at limiting plastic pollution. The application deadline for the funds is October 3. Read more about the initiative here (in Danish).

Jaundice treatment at home
A new method of treatment means that newborns in Denmark can now be treated for jaundice in their own homes. The Rigshospitalet city hospital is the first in Denmark to offer the treatment to new parents, while Odense, Herlev and Hvidovre hospitals also offer the treatment, though only to families already admitted to the neonatal ward. The new treatment works by lying the baby down in a small portable phototherapy device, called a biliblanket, for a few days. The child wears a cloth-based goggle to protect their eyes against the light, and the blanket is simply plugged into a standard electrical socket. About 60 percent of all newborns in Denmark develop jaundice, though considerably fewer require treatment.