The Danish government wants to stop recycled plastic trash ending up on Asian beaches, but the reality of Europe’s waste issue lies far closer to home.

March 3, 2022

Still from
The Recycling Myth
Rachel Sheary

The Danish minister for the environment Lea Wermelin has pledged to conduct more checks on trucks exporting trash to avoid Danish waste ending up on Asian beaches. The news comes following a broad majority vote on the Climate Plan for a Green Waste Sector in the Danish Parliament in 2020, which proposes to strengthen the supervision of the management, exportation and importation of waste in Denmark.

The initiative was inspired by a TV2 documentary in 2019, which uncovered that thousands of containers of plastic waste sorted by Danish citizens for recycling, ended up in Malaysia and Indonesia. Since January 2021 and the introduction of The Basel Directive, there are new rules surrounding  the exportation of plastic to countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and China - once hot spots for Europe’s unwanted trash. 

According to The Why’s investigation portrayed in our recent documentary film ‘The Recycling Myth’, our plastic waste is increasingly ending up in Eastern Europe and Turkey to be illegally burned. The film uncovers mafia-like conditions surrounding the management of plastic waste in Europe, with black-market brokers hunting for countries to illegally dump plastic and waste moguls getting rich from burning trash.

Anne Aittomaki, Strategic Director of the Danish NGO Plastic Change, maintains that the destination of our ‘dirty plastic’ is constantly changing;

“The market and receiving destinations shift so rapidly as regulations here and there are popping up and right now we are seeing that Turkey is a main recipient of European waste, especially coming from Germany - and also other European destinations. So it is still highly relevant to talk about the problem and consequences of plastic waste export.”

While Wermelin’s pledge suggests that the ministry may be unaware of the full extent of the plastic waste issue and how pervasive it is, Aittomaki acknowledges that more supervision of the exportation and importation of Danish waste is welcome;

“More checks are definitely welcome, but it has to come with a large fine if it is going to have the requested effect of scaring people off to try and cheat. The plan is related to the revision of the waste shipment directive in the EU, so EU is collectively trying to implement more control mechanisms.”

Read more here.

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