Minimizing the use of plastic

The Government of Greenland, Naalakkersuisut, have released their vision on how to lower the use of plastic in Greenland.

It doesn’t really bring that much to the table, and it – ironically – lacks vision. It just follows what EU has already decided. Which is, a ban of single-use plastics and a focus on what becomes of the remaining plastic.

Contrary to popular belief, Greenland is actually a dirty place.

Most settlements in Greenland doesn’t have any means of sorting or getting rid of their trash. The trash is just put out in the open at the settlement’s “dump”. So with a strong gust of wind, light-weight trash such as plastic will blow out into the sea.

In 2017 the University of Aarhus found that only 20% of the trash in Greenland’s sea was from external sources. The remaining 80% were from Greenland itself. So there’s definitely room for improvement.

This month a family were paid by the Environment Fund to collect trash in and around the town of Sisimiut. They collected 500 large bags worth of trash.

So what does the government’s action plan entail?

Plastic bags

Today, between 3.5 and 5 million plastic bags are imported to Greenland every year. This is around 78 tons plastic, just for shopping bags. The largest supermarket chain in Greenland, Pisiffik estimates that they also import 23 tons of “other” types of plastic.

In 2019, Naalakkersuisut introduced a 3 DKK tax on plastic bags. The new action plan will not place a ban on these plastic bags. They will only place a ban on the thin transparent plastic bags used mostly when buying fruits and vegetables.

Toilet bags

Plastic bags are used in about 5200 toilets which aren’t connected to sewers.

These bags are supposed to be collected by the municipality, which will empty the contents unfiltered into the ocean. The bags themselves are burned in an incinerator. If such an incinerator isn’t available at the settlement or town, the bags with the contents are simply left at the aforementioned “dump”.

The new action plan doesn’t really change much in this aspect. Two new incinerators are being built in Sisimiut and Nuuk, and according to the action plan it will be possible to collect the emptied plastic toilet bags and bring them to Nuuk or Sisimiut to be burned.

An alternative to the use of plastic bags in this regard, is – according to the action plan – to use buckets which can be cleaned and re-used.

Single-use plastics

Naalakkersuisut proposes to introduce a ban on single-use plastics on 1 January 2022. This includes straws, coffee cups, cutlery among other things.

Nothing much to add to this. It’s what should have been done a long time ago.

Micro plastics

Naalakkersuisut wants to clean-up the discarded fishing nets which are in abundance in the greenlandic sea. The clean-up includes the areas along the coastline which fishermen use and where a lot of discarded trash is located.

Furthermore, a ban of micro plastic in cosmetics and cleaning products are to be introduced.

Lastly, they want to look into measures to clean sewage before it’s let into the sea.

Conclusion

This action plan is a step in the right direction. Greenland needs to step-up its game. Sadly, this action plan doesn’t really bring with it the radical changes we need to see in this world in order to combat or mitigate the damage humans have done to it.

A ban of single-use plastic is good. Why not a ban on plastic bags as well? A ban of ICE vehicles? A greater use of solar panels and wind turbines? A focus on walking and cycling?

A couple of predictions

In an article on Sermitsiaq about the finances in the company behind the two future international airports in Nuuk and Ilulissat it is stated that no-one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences on air travel when the budget for the upcoming airports were being negotiated.

Well, there have been many pandemics before COVID-19 and there will be many after. It’s actually quite easy to predict that air travel will face several obstacles.

GreenGreenland has always been against building the two new international airports instead of renovating and modernizing the existing airport in Kangerlussuaq. Or building the new Nuuk International Airport on the islands south of Nuuk.

Let’s make a few predictions:

  • A new pandemic will come along and disrupt air travel.
  • An Icelandic volcano will erupt and distrupt air travel.
  • Fewer people will use air travel, as more and more people become aware of climate change.
  • At least 1 airplane will overshoot the runway at Nuuk International Airport and crash down the 50 meters drop at the end of the runway.
  • The people of Nuuk will see a decrease in health due to the noise and air pollution from the planes and the airport.
  • The two new international airports will turn out to be a bad investment, and will need to be re-financed.

All of Copenhagen’s harbour buses are now electric

We previously wrote about wanting to have a water bus service in Nuuk. Such a service has been offered in Copenhagen, Denmark for a long time. We know it isn’t about Greenland, but bear with us.

The harbour bus service in Copenhagen is now electric. The first 2 electric water buses were put in operation in June this year, and last month in July the remaining 3 were out in use as well.

The new electric Copenhagen Water Bus can carry 80 passengers, 8 bicycles and 4 wheelchairs.

Only time will tell if we get to see such a thing in Greenland.

Nukissiorfiit finally gets serious about EV charging

In 2016, the power company Nukissiorfiit installed 13 EV chargers in Nuuk. Since then, not much has happened. Until now.

Nukissiorfiit have announced that they will install several new charging stations in Nuuk in the beginning of 2021, with a nation-wide roll-out to follow. They talk about launcing an app where EV-owners can see which chargers are available and which are in-use.

EV-owners can fill out Nukissiorfiit’s survey with questions such as “Would you be interested in getting an EV charger at home for 50 DKK per month?” here (They sadly chose to use Google for the survey).

Nuuk is a town for cars, sadly.

There’s only 8 km from one end of Nuuk to the other, but there are several thousand cars. Nuuk has become a town for cars, not people. We need to change that.

Many roads in Nuuk has been built without any room for pedestrians, forcing people to walk on the very edge of the road hoping that cars don’t hit them. When there is a designated area of the road for people to use it’s not being maintained properly with uneven surfaces, cracks and potholes. In winter the snow isn’t removed.

The main road from the town center of Nuuk to the neighborhood Qinngorput is actually wide enough for there to be built a bicycle path.

Look at that unused space.

There’s room for a bicycle path next to the walking path. A safe, well-maintained path for people to ride their bikes from Qinngorput to the town center. Install some benches and trash cans for good measure. This will encourage some people to live healthier by riding a bike instead of a car.

The oldest part of Nuuk is the colonial harbor. Today it hosts the local Nuuk museum, the National Museum, a café and several shops. But enjoying a cup of coffee at this beautiful part of Nuuk is interrupted by the sound, air and visual pollution of cars.

Why is there a parking lot in the middle of everything, obstructing the view from the café?

The colonial harbor should be completely car-free.

A car-free colonial harbor would make room for the café and the restaurant to have bigger outdoor service. The museums could have outdoor activities, or there could simply be room for people instead of cars.

Aluminium cans

The Business and Minerals Committee (Inuussutissarsiornermut Atsitassanullu Ataatsimiititaliaq) at The Government of Greenland (Inatsisartut) is supporting a proposal to make the import of alcohol-free beer in aluminium cans legal.

Alcohol-free beer has several health benefits compared to beer with alcohol. So making alcohol-free beer available is a good idea.

Unfortunately, the deposit scheme on beverage containers in Greenland only cover glass and plastic bottles (as seen in our previous post from the Nuuk Culture Night). It doesn’t cover aluminium cans. This means there is no incentive for people to dispose of the cans in a environment-friendly way.

The committee addresses this by saying there are already energy drinks in aluminium cans available in greenlandic stores, and “The number of visible aluminum cans in the city seems to be quite limited” (Quote from a May 2019 KNR article).

Unfortunately, this is not true. Maybe the members of the committee doesn’t walk or bicycle around Nuuk – maybe they only drive around in cars so they don’t see how polluted by trash the town of Nuuk actually is.

A quick walk from the town center to the Nuussuaq neighborhood and around the airport gave a total of 42 discarded energy drinks in aluminium cans – as seen in these pictures that we took:

In Denmark – where the alcohol-free beer will be imported from – there already is a deposit on every type of beverage aluminium can. The Danish deposit scheme will be even further expanded this year by including juice and other non-carbonated drinks regardless of the container.

Greenland’s deposit scheme needs to also be expanded.

Helping victims of abuse

This week Danish Broadcasting (DR) showed a documentary from the greenlandic town of Tasiilaq. Tasiilaq has a high suicide rate, many of the town’s citizens are victims of sexual abuse. This include children.

In the documentary “Byen hvor børn forsvinder” (The town where children disappear), a schoolteacher tells examples of what her pupils have experienced in their family life. The teacher tells DR that she has reported every abuse about every child to the municipality – and that she has heard nothing back.

DR and the teacher have arranged a meeting with the Sermersooq Municipality mayor Asii Chemnitz Narup – who at the last minute cancels the meeting with no explanation whatsoever.

The municipality then grants DR and the teacher an interview with the head of the social department – Martha Lund Olsen.

Martha Lund Olsen comes across as being defensive and rather hostile towards the teacher. The teacher starts by asking why Martha hasn’t answered an e-mail the teacher personally sent some time ago. Martha doesn’t answer – so the teacher asks again. Once again Martha doesn’t answer.

The teacher then moves on to a new question, except she doesnt get to the end of her sentence about there being several reports about the problems in Tasiilaq before Martha Lund Olsen interrupts the teacher which in and of itself is aggressive, but Martha keeps on being aggressive by changing her tone of voice and saying “You know what? I already know this” thereby not letting the teacher actually ask a question.

Martha Lund Olsen has to the newspaper Sermitsiaq “apologized” for her behavior in the DR documentary, by saying she was irritated that she was being accused of not doing anything about the problems in Tasiilaq.

In the interview Martha Lund Olsen was not being accused of not doing anything. She was asked – twice – why she hasn’t answered a specific e-mail sent by the teacher. Martha didn’t answer. The teacher tried to ask a new question but Martha interrupted.

So Martha wasn’t being accused of anything. Martha was merely being a jerk.

Danish politicians have offered to help with the expertise and money that Denmark has – Greenlandic politicians have refused to receive help from Denmark.

The people in power have failed its citizens. They should be held responsible. Ordinary citizens should always have the right to criticize the people in power – otherwise we cease to be a democracy.

Outdoor facilities in Nuuk

A month ago, we wrote to every political party in Greenland as well as the Sermersooq municipality about outdoor facilities in Nuuk. No one has replied.

The story is that Sermersooq municipality (to which Nuuk belongs) will spend money on better signage throughout the town – in order to help tourists.

We contacted the municipality and the political parties to ask about other things that would actually help tourists and local citizens.

Nuuk lacks public toilets. You can walk from the town center through the area of Nuussuaq towards the Qinngorput area without a single public toilet available. There needs to be safe and clean public toilets available.

We also asked why the municipality wastes time, money, and planet/human health-destroying fossil-fuel in order to drive around town removing bins before the winter.

During the winter, the bins are placed outside a depot.

The bins can clearly survive the winter as they are still outside. If the bins are removed to make snow-removal easier, then the solution is to place bins where they don’t hinder snow-removal. Like attaching them to street light poles. Which they (to their credit) have done a couple of places:

The removal of bins throughout the town only exacerbates the waste problem which exists in Nuuk.

In our e-mail we asked if they would consider placing more environment friendly bins which urges people to sort their waste. Like this bin made out of wood in London:

We also asked why they remove benches before the winter. The benches are also placed outside a depot during winter:

Some of those benches were placed in locations where they don’t hinder snow removal – so it makes absolutely no sense for them to be removed.

Simply put, there needs to be facilities available throughout Nuuk which makes life easier for everyone. If there are no benches to rest on, no bins to place one’s waste in, and no toilets to use. Why would anyone spend time outside in Nuuk? Why would tourists?

The minister of Industry and Energy is a climate change denier

The sheer ignorance of the Greenlandic government never seizes to astound me.

Today, the newspaper Sermitsiaq has published an article about Aqqalu Jeremiassen, the minister of industry and energy in the Greenlandic Cabinet. In the article Aqqalu says he doesn’t believe in climate change, or that humans can influence the planet. He even believes scientists are using climate change for their own gain – to make themselves rich.

Oh, the sheer stupidity of that ignorant man.

Greenland and the greenlandic people will suffer because of climate change deniers like Aqqalu Jeremiassen and Vittus Qujaukitsoq.