City’s plastic waste gets new LIFE

June 8th, 2011

This article is more than 12 years old.

Copenhagen wins EU innovation grant to rethink plastic waste and approves new recycling programme

Copenhagen’s technical and environmental department, Teknik- og Miljøforvaltningen (TMF), has won its bid for a prestigious development grant from the EU.

LIFE, the EU funding authority for innovative environmental projects, has chosen Copenhagen TMF to spearhead an international collaboration to optimise plastic recycling and reduce the amount of plastic in the waste stream, the TMF told The Copenhagen Post on Tuesday.

LIFE will co-finance the TMF’s winning proposal to develop innovative new techniques and best-practices in plastic waste management in collaboration with international and Danish partners from industry, research and government.

“The aim is to extract plastic from the waste stream either by recycling it efficiently or by keeping it from ever getting into the waste stream,” TMF economist Mette Skovgaard said. “The project is also about collecting and exchanging information among all the partners to establish best-practices.”

Improved recycling is not the only aim. The partners will also work to create environmentally sound alternatives to today’s plastic packaging.

“We are trying to approach the management of plastic from all different sides,” Skovgaard added.

Copenhagen TMF will be the lead partner in the three-year project that starts this September and finishes in 2013.

In Denmark, the TMF joins forces with Amagerforbrænding, a waste management and incineration company owned by Copenhagen and four other area councils, and the research universities, Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the University of Aalborg.

The project’s international partners are the cities of Malmö, Sweden, and Hamburg, Germany, and the Latvian waste management companies, Liepajas RAS and Getlini EKO.

In related news, on May 16 the city approved the TMF’s proposal to implement a permanent, new programme for sorting and collecting recyclable plastics, metals and small electronics from apartment buildings.

The new initiative aims to make it easier for apartment residents to recycle more of their household waste.

Clear instructions and convenience are key to an effective recycling programme according to the TMF’s head of waste planning, Julie B Svendsen.

“In general, my experience is that people are quite good at sorting, as long as it is easy. The challenge is in making it easy for them. You can’t expect people to carry their waste or recyclables very far,” Svendsen told The Copenhagen Post in April.

With the new initiative Copenhagen’s apartment residents will not have to carry hard plastics, metal and small electronics any further than their backyards, as new sorting bins will be provided and the sorted contents will be collected in the same way that paper, cardboard, hazardous waste and bulky items currently are.

Amager district residents who took part in the TMF’s year-long pilot project to determine the pros and cons of a potential plastic and metal collection programme said they were satisfied with the new service, while the sanitation workers who collected the additional recyclables said the new system did not make their jobs more difficult either.

The pilot project showed that up to 30 percent of the household rubbish the city is burning today is recyclable or unfit for burning.

With the new sorting and collection programme, Copenhagen expects to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 1,400 tonnes per year through reduced plastic burning alone.

The small electronics sorting will also keep a range of poisonous substances such as flame retardants, phthalates and lead, as well as valuable aluminium, copper, gold, mercury and cadmium from being incinerated.

Through the new programme, the city expects that it will be able to recycle up to 50 percent of its plastic waste and 62 percent of metal waste.

“It is very ambitious,” Skovgaard said. “The EU directive calls for EU member states to recycle 22.5 percent of all their plastic packaging. So 50 percent is a good, high target,” she added.

The TMF reported that the new recycling initiative will cost approximately 14.8 million kroner per year – approximately 60 kroner per flat – but that cost would be covered by savings in other areas of the waste management budget.

The city’s 20,000 single family homes, however, will not be included in the new collection programme, due to cost. The TMF is looking into another solution for single family houses and the city will continue to accept all recyclables – including soft plastics – at its eight local recycling centres.

The new recycling programme rolls out in April 2012, with citywide coverage by the end of 2013.


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