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Danish ministers call for cuts to waste imports


Climate minister Dan Jørgensen and environment minister
Lea Wermelin see a need to reduce waste incineration.
20.05.2020 − 

If Denmark is to achieve a green transition, it will need to increase recycling and to strengthen the circular economy, but it will also need to reduce the amount of waste incinerated, according to climate minister Dan Jørgensen. "It's crazy that we import large quantities of waste into Denmark. We must reverse the trend so that we import and burn far less and recycle far more," said Mr Jørgensen at the presentation of the Danish government’s initiatives intended to reduce the climate impact of waste earlier this week.

"We burn far too much and we recycle too little," added environment minister Lea Wermelin at the same event. "Even today, there are too many incinerators in Denmark, which - in order to fill the furnaces - import waste from abroad," she said. Along with other proposals, the government plans to ask the Danish Parliament to discuss how the country can get "fewer and more efficient incinerators and limit the import of foreign waste".

The government has set the waste sector a deadline of 2030 to achieve climate-neutrality. Without efforts to reduce emissions, the country's waste to energy plants are expected to generate around 1.5 million tonnes of CO2e in 2030 or almost 4 per cent of the national total. The government sees plastic waste behind much of the CO2 released and wants to see 80 per cent plastic removed from the residual waste stream and divert this material from waste to energy plants. Current estimates put the amount of plastic waste incinerated in Denmark at 370,000 tonnes a year.

Ms Wermelin noted that the refuse-derived fuel (RDF) that Danish waste incineration plants import typically has a higher plastic content than domestic inputs and that it is a contributor to the country’s CO2 emissions.

Denmark is not alone in seeking to discourage imports of RDF for energy recovery. On 1 January a Dutch law went into effect expanding an existing waste incineration tax of around €32 per tonne to imports. Denmark's neighbour Sweden introduced an excise tax of currently just under €7 per tonne in April of this year.

EU Commission publishes waste shipments guidance  − next