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How Far Does Your Recycling Travel?

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recycling centreIt is easy to stop thinking about our rubbish as soon as it leaves our homes. We might occasionally wonder what our recyclables have been turned into, particularly when we notice that something we are buying has been made from recycled materials, but other than that, we tend to forget about our waste.

It might come as a surprise therefore that some of your rubbish could actually be taking a trip abroad after you have thrown it out. A lot of our waste is disposed of or recycled fairly locally, but some of it is actually exported out of the UK. Some of it goes as far as China, but increasing amounts of waste are now being sent to Europe to power the incinerators that are generating heat and electricity for in countries such as Denmark and Sweden.

The Danish national broadcaster, DR, reports that thousands of tonnes of non-hazardous waste are being transported from the UK to Denmark in order to heat homes and provide power. The rubbish that is being sent to Denmark is mainly old construction material and waste from building sites. It includes cardboard, wood and plastic, all of which can be burned to generate power.

According to the operations manager of AVO, a company that burns imported waste at a plant in Frederikshavn, this waste is the perfect mixture for producing heat and electricity from their incinerator. The company has actually doubled the amount of waste that it imports from the UK, contributing to the total of about 200,000 tonnes of combustible waste that is now being sent each year from the UK to Denmark.

The waste incinerators can provide Danish homes with much cheaper heating than they could get through other options, such as natural gas, so demand for more waste to burn is increasing, and luckily, there is a good supply of combustible rubbish from the UK. Although we do have some similar incinerators, we don’t have enough to make use of all our available waste. Sending our rubbish overseas can provide homes in Denmark with cheaper power, but it is also a way to keep our useable rubbish out of landfill.