Mission Greenland – For a Cleaner Future
Our goal is to keep Greenland as clean as possible - that the people cooperate more and that we Greenlanders gain a greater understanding about better management of waste. Because in the end, everything we throw out will come back to us.
Anthon Frederiksen minister of environment in Greenland
For the first time the waste in Greenland has been analyzed and the result is alarming. All households and industries need to get better at separating their waste. It’s a crucial mission and everyone needs to be involved, if Greenland is to have a cleaner and greener future.
Before, the waste used to get dumped and buried in the valleys. Now it gets burned in incinerators.
Greenland has large incineration plants in 6 of their cities, and in the small villages they have smaller ovens for burning waste. In this way, you get rid of all the waste instead of burying it in nature and the incineration plants use the energy produced from the burning process to deliver district heating to a great part of the city. However, the challenge lies within the actual waste delivered to the incineration plants. It has not been adequately sorted thus resulting in dangerous gases and pollutants being spread, which are harmful to the environment and the health of the inhabitants.
“Well, the challenge here at the incineration plant is that there is not enough waste that gets sorted and this means there is chemical waste like batteries, paint residue, chlorine residue and electronics that all end up in the incinerator - and when we burn this, it is spread over the entire city and this is then bad for our health.” Henrik Skjoldhøj Nielsen, Operational Manager, Incineration Plant in Sisimiut
Only 25 % of the hazardous waste from households is delivered to the recycling stations. The rest ends up in the ordinary household waste. The mission is therefore to get everyone involved; citizens, corporations and politicians– and to make everyone aware of the importance of separating waste between hazardous and burnable waste.
Hazardous waste and burnable waste
Hazardous waste is basically waste that cannot be burned without harming the environment. Examples are batteries, electronic equipment, paint residues, chemicals, oil and so on. Normal household waste like paper, cardboard, foods, wood etc. are burnable. The challenge is to make everyone aware of this fact, so when the waste arrives at the incineration plants it contributes to a clean burning process.
There is no doubt that the Greenlanders want to contribute to a greener and cleaner future, especially when you see the success of the Greenlandic recycling system of bottles. 99 % of all plastic- and glass bottles are returned to the recycling plants, making Greenland an inspiring example to the rest of the world.
Today, a lot of young people in Greenland are interested in learning about waste management. At the school for Building and Construction in Sisimiut the engineering students are taught about how to improve the waste management systems in Greenland.
“What we learn in this course, is primarily about technologies for handling waste and such and also about sewage. So we learn what the consequences are when systems aren’t working as they are supposed to.” Bjarke Raakjær Jensen, Student
The young people are ready to make a difference and learning about it in school really motivates them to want to improve the existing waste systems.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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