Catchy Ad Campaign Urges Danes to Recycle Electronics

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, September 1, 2000 (ENS) - A punchy public awareness campaign was launched this week in Denmark, in a bid to more than double the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

The campaign backs up an ordinance that came into force in January, requiring all municipalities to organise separate collection of electroscrap at local collection points.

Denmark produces high volumes of electroscrap - about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per person each year - reflecting consumption patterns in what an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official termed a "rich, design conscious country."

Not all of it appears in the waste stream, since some items tend to be hoarded. But large quantities of smaller products, such as electric toothbrushes, mobile phones and radios, are regularly thrown away in household rubbish.

It is estimated that about one-third of electroscrap is currently recycled, placing Denmark comfortably above the four kilogram (8.8 pound) per capita target in the European Union's draft waste electrical and electronic equipment law published in June.

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Electronic scrap heap (Photo courtesy Eldan Recycling)
The Danish EPA wants to raise this to 75 percent by focusing public attention on the resources locked up in electroscrap materials as well as their environmental hazards.

The agency estimates that 60 percent of all copper and 40 percent of all lead currently being dumped or incinerated in Denmark comes from electroscrap.

To drive home the message that waste comes back to haunt us, a new television advertisement features a woman throwing her old vibrator into in the sea, only to have it publicly rescued by her dog.

The section of the draft law currently giving rise to most concern in the EPA relates to producer responsibility.

"Almost all our electrical [equipment] is currently imported," an official said. "We have no tradition of producer responsibility, but rather one of strong municipal involvement, so we are looking hard at how to respond in this area."

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