22 Apr 2019 - The Danish island of Bornholm has an aging incinerator that will soon need replacement. Instead, the local government is adopting a totally new system.
IMAGINE A WHOLE community reusing or recycling every last scrap of waste. That may sound utopian, but perhaps not on the Danish island of Bornholm.
By 2032 all waste on Bornholm will be treated as resources, say officials. Garbage sorting, recycling, minimizing waste, and a lot of new technology are the tools envisioned to turn Bornholm into one of the first garbage-free communities on the planet.
Bornholm, the easternmost island of Denmark, is a 227 square-mile (588 square-kilometer) granite rock jutting out of the Baltic Sea. Known for its quaint fishing villages and sunny climate, it is a popular vacation destination with a permanent population of 40,000 and another 600,000 annual visitors.
“By 2032 we aim to reuse or recycle everything,” says Jens Hjul-Nielsen, CEO of BOFA, the island’s waste management company and key architect behind the garbage-free vision. “How we get to that point is an exciting process, because there is so much we don’t yet know. We have a vision, but no clear-cut plan on how to get there.”
As the island’s only waste-incineration facility is wearing out, the bold decision was made last December to close it down in 2032 and make the transition towards a garbage-free society.
“Operating a waste management company on such a small scale as we do here has its challenges, so instead of investing in a new incineration facility, we decided to simply eliminate landfill and incineration as waste management options. We wanted to try something different and utilize that we are a society in miniature, complete with businesses, private households and tourism, where we can experiment and gain knowledge that later may be scaled up to a national or even a global level,” explains Hjul-Nielsen.
In BOFA’s vision of the future, the citizens of Bornholm will sort all their waste into different fractions, easy to collect and use in new resource loops. Metal, plastics, glass, paper, and cardboard are widely recycled, and new waste fractions such as fishing nets and insulation materials will be added to the sorting and recycling system. Meanwhile, organic waste will be converted into energy together with green garden and park waste, while the nutrient-rich residue from the energy extraction is used as fertilizer in fields, parks and gardens, writes BOFA.
In this circular economy, the inhabitants will reuse everything from furniture to children’s clothing and make use of sharing economy services—for instance lending, renting, or bartering goods through the internet or peer communities.
In elementary schools children will be educated as “resource heroes” with practical lessons in waste, resources, the environment, and nature. And a university research center on models of green transition and the circular economy will be established on Bornholm.
The “Green Island”
It was a unanimous municipal council that decided to close the incineration facility and embrace this bold vision back in December.
But a green mind-set is not new to the local government. The municipality already adopted a “Bright Green Island” strategy to position itself as a leader in sustainable development, aiming to be CO2-neutral by 2025, convert to green energy sources, and expand the island’s organic farm land.