Danes tossing out recyclable and environmentally dangerous items

Over 40 percent of batteries are never recycled, study says

Household bins in Denmark are filled with used batteries, discarded headphones, watches, light bulbs and other items that could easily be recycled.

DTU PhD student Marianne Bigum examined waste from 3,129 Danish households in 12 municipalities and found that 39 percent of the batteries used by Danes wind up in the trash. That adds up to nine batteries per household per year. Some 16 percent of electronic waste is disposed of in the same fashion.

“It's really, really bad,” Bigum told Ingeniøren. “I really don’t understand it. Batteries do not take up any space under the kitchen sink.”

Wasted resources
Bigum’s study seems to refute the claims of Danes, as some 90 percent according to a survey by environmental protection agency Miljøstyrelsen say they recycle their batteries.

The batteries and electronic waste thrown into bins wind up in waste-burning furnaces. And although they account for only half a percent of total waste volume, they account for 28 percent of the environmental impact of combustion.

READ MORE: Government launches new recycling targets

Most small button cell batteries contain mercury. Batteries are also the largest contributor to heavy metal cadmium in waste incinerators. Although scrubbers in the incinerators catch over 99 percent, some of the toxic heavy metal slips into the environment.

Tossing away batteries and electronics also makes it impossible to recycle the valuable and rare metals like platinum that they contain.