Bornholm- The Waste-Free Island

Bornholm, a small island off the coast of Denmark, are trying out a new system that may pave the way for the rest of Europe’s recycling, by attempting to recycle every last piece of waste produced. The 227 square-mile (588 square-km) island is known for the fishing villages and sunny weather that make it a popular tourist destination. Soon, it may become a green utopia people at one point didn’t think was possible.

Officials have estimated the island will start viewing waste as a renewable resource by as early as 2032. This will be done through proper waste sorting, recycling, waste minimisation and other new techniques.

The island only has one incinerator for waste, of which is slowly wearing out. Because of that, the goal to make Bornholm a waste-free area was first proposed last December. The local authorities had decided that rather than replacing the incinerator, becoming zero-waste was a far more beneficial option in the long-term.


The Main Plan

So, how is this idealistic goal to be achieved? The first step is for the citizens of Bornholm to sort the waste into different groups. Along with the typical choices for recycling such as metals, cardboard, plastics and the like, new categories have been added such as fishing nets in order for the sorting of waste to go a lot more smoothly without complications related to waste contamination. Prior to the changes, the seven waste categories that were available for sorting were plastic, cardboard, paper, food, glass, metal and wood.

Secondly, there’s the goal of converting organic waste into energy, and for the residue from this being used as fertiliser. Reusing everything will be engrained into the culture of the community, with the trading and sharing of services becoming intertwined in order to make it a completely circular economy.

To make sure this is promoted and improved on over time, the next generation will be targeted as those to advertise to primarily. School children will be given practical lessons when it comes to the correlation of waste and the environment, so they learn the importance of this.

This won’t be Bornholm’s first experience with major eco-friendly plans. The local authorities had already made plans to make the area CO2-neutral, offer conversions for natural energy sources and expand on organic farming all by 2025.

According to Bornholm’s deputy mayor, Anne Thomas, the island is “lagging behind” when it comes to waste management, which was a major motivation for making such improvements. The island will accomplish its goals by funding from sources such as the EU, and in being late to the trend of reforming waste management plans, Bornholm can use this as their strength by learning from the strengths and weaknesses of previous implementations of waste-free plans in Europe.


The path moving forward

Bornholm currently recycles 39% of their waste, a far cry from the circular system the island is hoping for. Obviously, increasing the percentage will be a key starting point in making the plan a reality. Deputy mayor Thomas has said that exploring new ideas will be the way to go about this, with the community testing out new company partnerships, production processes and population engagement options.

The CEO of the organisation Bornholms Affaldsbehandling (BOFA), Jens Hjul-Nielson, has mentioned things may prove uncertain to predict as the change in society leads to new types of waste being produced and handlers needing to decide on how to best sort them in recycling.

Meanwhile, new technology may help in the task, and BOFA are making the effort for companies to test these new methods alongside the government.


The people’s role

Bornholm’s population will play a critical role in whether or not this system works. In order to make sure the community keep on track with the plan, the local authorities have to make sure that the cost and difficulty don’t become too much for the average citizen.

The citizens currently pay a waste disposal tax of around 3,000 Danish kroner (around 347.00 gbp) annually that covers every aspect of waste management such as the weekly waste collection. With the increases made now, the waste disposal tax had to make a 15% increase, which would add the equivalent of $68 to the annual tax as of 2022, with that year being the deadline for the compliance policy of at least 50% of all household waste being sorted into, at bare minimum, one of the seven original categories by then.

BOFA has many projects occurring to help with this process for everyone. One such task consists of examining the difficulty of sorting certain wastes and how to motivate those involved to improve. For example, looking at the differences in waste management for a farming village compared to a fishing village. Other projects include packaging reduction, material production and education of tourists on the system.


The road ahead

Anne Thomas, politician of the Danish party Alternativet, has noted that groups of residents are already doing their best to work with the new plan and have even offered their thoughts on ways to improve it. This is important, since as she has expressed, finding new methods and ways of thinking is the key to making this circular economy a reality.

Even if the goals for 2032 aren’t met, those involved are determined to reach their end goal. In the case they still have residual waste, it will be taken for incineration at an off-island facility, and the island will work to address this problem until it’s solved.

With such determination and planning, it seems Bornholm are passionate about becoming a zero-waste economy. Bold decisions like this are what keeps the world developing, and we here at CheaperWaste agree this is a great step.


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