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New discovery: Danish plastic waste from households ends up in Malaysia

In a village in Malaysia, between plastic waste from Germany, France, Portugal, and other EU countries there has now also been found Danish plastic waste, which is likely to come from Danish households collected for recycling.

The news about the Danish plastic waste found in Southeast Asia has emerged after a 10 month-long investigation made by the Danish broadcasting station TV2, with assistance from Plastic Change and the global movement, Break Free From Plastic. The purpose was to investigate what happens to the Danish plastic waste from households when it is sent for so-called recycling. So how did it end in Malaysia?

In Denmark, we export most of our collected plastic waste from households for recycling to Germany or Sweden, as they have recycling facilities with some of the most advanced technologies in the world. Denmark has made expensive investments in waste incineration plants and has therefore not expanded a recycling industry. Therefore, in order to recycle Danish plastic waste, it will have to cross the Danish borders to neighboring countries. The fact that we export our plastic waste within the EU is not in itself a problem. On the contrary, it may be just the right thing for a small country like Denmark. The first problem arises when there is no control of the plastic waste after it has crossed the Danish borders. The second arises due to the massive amount of disposable packaging and products that are not designed properly to be reused or recycled.

Even with the most advanced technology, a lot of household plastic is difficult to recycle as it consists of mixed types of plastics, is of poor quality and poor design, as well as the plastic becomes “dirty and contaminated” by being mixed together. Due to the difficulty in recycling the plastic, some of the plastic that Germany has received from Denmark is exported to countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia. Here it is burnt for fuel or ends up in open landfills.

PHOTOS: MARK THESTRUP, TV2

Unfortunately, in Plastic Change, it comes as no surprise. “It is completely unacceptable that our consumption of plastic and disposable packaging ends up as useless plastic waste in Southeast Asia. As a rich country, we must take responsibility and solve this ourselves, ”says Anne Aittomaki, Strategic Director of Plastic Change.

“We must design smarter so that you as a consumer are sure that the products and the accompanying packaging that you pull from the shelves and bring into your home are designed to fit into a system where they are actually reused or recycled within European borders.” she continues.

Read the full article on plastic waste found in Malaysia.