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McKinsey study says Denmark is wasting money by burning plastics

Almost 60% of Denmark’s plastic waste ends up at incineration plants. If the nation were to recycle the material instead, it would benefit the economy as much as 1.5 billion Danish Krone (or US$ 152 million) each year.

Business and households in Denmark produce 350 000 tonnes of plastic scrap every year. This is approximately 60 kg per person, reveals a new report by research firm Mckinsey. The report adds that some 60% (or 215 000 tonnes) of plastic scrap is packaging.

It is noted that the country sends more than half of this material to waste-to-energy facilities. The 30+ incineration plants provide almost 40% of Denmark’s energy demand, and 30% of all heating in city areas.

About 2% (or 7000 tonnes) of plastic waste goes to Danish landfills; with 28% (or 97 000 tonnes) exported for recycling elsewhere; and roughly 13% (or 46 000 tonnes) being recycled domestically.

Moreover, researchers warn that burning plastics is a short-cut that costs the economy more than a 1 billion Krone annually. Switching to recycling plastics has a number of benefits, it is contended: Denmark would save money on importing virgin plastics, additionally, the country would be able to cut the environmental costs of pollution, while creating value from new technology and newly-created jobs.

Plastic pollution is relatively low in Scandinavia – though the area is not shielded from its effects, McKinsey analysts underline. ‘Denmark and other countries are exposed to plastics pollution transported by ocean currents. Annually, more than 1000 tonnes of plastic are collected on the Danish west coast,’ they argue.

‘Denmark is very, very bad regarding reusable plastic, and that is because, for many years, we have burned our waste using incinerator plants,’ comments Peter Høngaard Andersen, director of Innovation Fund Denmark. ‘The problem is that plastic is not being reused, so we are producing more CO2 than we should,’ he laments.

McKinsey underlines the fact that the EU’s target for recycling plastic packaging is 55% by 2030. ‘Denmark currently achieves less than a third of this.’ Analysts close on a positive note, though, stating: ‘There is great scope for innovation.’

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