Denmark aims for climate-neutral waste sector by 2030

The Danes currently produce the most waste per citizen in all of Europe

Denmark aiming for more recycling and less incineration (photo: Facebook/Solrød Affald 2020)
June 16th, 2020 12:46 pm| by Christian W

The government today reached an accord with a broad spectrum of Parliament to see Denmark’s waste sector attain climate neutrality by 2030.

The agreement is expected to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 0.7 million tonnes by the end of this decade – the equivalent of removing 280,000 fossil fuel-powered cars from the roads.

“We are launching a very green transition of the waste sector. For 15 years we have failed to solve the waste incineration dilemma,” said the climate minister, Dan Jørgensen.

“It’s time to stop importing plastic waste from abroad to fill empty incinerators and burn it to the detriment of the climate. With this agreement, we are increasing recycling and reducing burning, making a significant difference to the climate.”

READ ALSO: Household waste collection should be standardised country-wide

Up in smoke
Denmark currently holds the dubious honour of being the European country that produces the most waste per citizen – about 800 kilos household waste annually, which is well above the EU average of 490 kilos.

Almost one third of all Danish waste is burned in 23 incinerators across the nation.

In 2016, Denmark imported about 364,000 tonnes of waste to incinerate, resulting in about 0.36 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Some key points from the agreement: 

Increased and more streamlined waste management: The Danes must sort waste in the same way at home and at work whichever municipality they reside in. Ten types of rubbish will be sorted in all Danish homes.

Flexibility in finding solutions: Types of waste that can be mixed without compromising quality can be collected in the same ‘chamber’ of the rubbish bin. The parties agreed that a typical Danish home should have a max of 2-4 bins with several compartments for different waste. 

More recycling of plastic waste: Including a demand of 60 percent recycling of collected and plastic waste, cross-sector co-operation between the restaurant, agriculture and construction sectors. Furthermore, packaging producers should be given a financial incentive to design packaging that is recyclable.

A strong recycling sector: Waste from households and companies must be collected and sorted more uniformly. Municipalities must tender the handling of recyclable waste, but are still required to document how and where the waste is recycled.

Less waste incineration and import pertaining to such: The capacity of Danish incineration plants must be reduced to complement Danish waste amounts that are expected to decline when recycling increases. That capacity will be fixed at about 30 percent less than the amount of waste the Danes produce today.

Less waste and a more circular economy: Among other initiatives, citizens will have better opportunities to deliver waste directly to companies that can use it to make new products. All municipal recycling centres are duty bound to make an area accessible to citizens delivering waste for direct recycling.