Greenland looks to improve waste management given its extreme climate, remote cities; metals already separated and sent for recycling in Europe, authorities investigate similar plans for other materials

COPENHAGEN, Denmark , June 10, 2011 (press release) – Reduce, reuse, recycle – the common mantra of waste management makes the process sound simple. But while these three ingredients may be the same, the recipe for sustainable waste management can be very different – and Greenland’s unique environment presents some considerable challenges.

Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and a team of experts visited Greenland this week to make a short film on waste and exchange ideas about its prevention and better management.

Like many other European countries, Greenland faces the challenge of improving its handling of waste. Modernising waste incineration is one important element, but there are many opportunities to improve the situation with more simple steps as well. For example, keeping hazardous waste like batteries, paints and electronic waste separate from overall waste now has top priority. This waste is then sent to Denmark for treatment.

Prof. Jacqueline McGlade returned from Greenland today and has experienced that the government of Greenland, municipalities and other stakeholders are currently very active in investigating the most suitable solutions for waste management given the extreme climate and the vast distances between towns and villages in Greenland. Public interest in waste is rising, and one of the first steps will be to raise awareness of waste issues, among citizens and children in particular. The EEA film will contribute to this awareness-raising activity.

Things are already changing. Although recycling plants are far away, increasing quantities of metals are separated from the waste stream and shipped to recycling plants in Europe, and authorities are investigating similar solutions for other waste materials. Closing the loop of metals is one small step towards a recycling society and a greener economy, in which waste is used as a resource rather than a burden.

Making these changes in such a challenging environment can also provide lessons for the other Arctic countries.

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