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SOER Country

Waste (Denmark)

Why should we care about this issue

Waste Waste
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Total waste generation is increasing at similar rates as the economic development. The total amount of waste increased from 13.0 million to15.6 million tonnes between 2000 and 2008. However, there is a tendency for stagnation in recent years.

Generation of waste in Danish households is increasing at similar rates as the increase in private consumption. The volume of household waste increased by 18 % between 2000 and 2008, and amounted to approximately 23 % of the total waste generated. During the same period, waste management improved and the recycling rate of household waste was 41%.


The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The total generation of waste has increased by 20 % from 2000 to 2008, i.e. from 13 million to 15.6 million tonnes. In all economic sectors, except industry and wastewater treatment plants, the generation of waste has increased. At the same time, waste management in Denmark has improved. In 2008, 69 % of the total waste was recycled, compared to 60 % in 1996 and only 7 % of the waste was landfilled.

The highest waste recycling rate is within the building and construction sector as well as the coal-based energy production sector, with recycling rates of 95 % and 87 %, respectively. For packaging waste, recycling rates (2007 data) are highest for glass packaging (88 %), but recycling rates for paper and cardboard (61 %), and metals (87 %) are also high.


Figur 1 (9.3.1)

Figure 1 (9.3.1): Development of the total generation of waste in Denmark for different economic sectors. Source: Environment Agency, ISAG 2009.


Figure 2 (9.4.2)

Figure 2 (9.4.2): Management of waste in Denmark. Amount of waste that is recycled, incinerated, landfilled, specially treated and temporarily stored. Source: Danish Environmental Protection Agency, ISAG 2009.


Figure 3 (9.4.4)

Figure 3 (9.4.4): Waste recycling percentage in 2008 from different economic sectors. Source: Danish Environmental Protection Agency, ISAG 2009.


Figure 4 (9.4.3)

 Figure 4 (9.4.3): Recycling percentage of four main fractions of packaging waste: Plastics, metals, paper and cardboards and glass. Data are not available for paper and cardboard in 2002 and 2003. Source: Danish Environmental Protection Agency, ISAG 2009.



The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Generation of total waste in Denmark increases at similar rates as the economic development. The increase in total waste generation per capita was 45 % from 1994 to 2008, compared with an increase in GNP per capita of 32 %. The total amount of waste generated per capita per day was approximately 7.8 kg in 2008.


Figure 5 (9.5.1. modified)

Figure 5 (9.5.1modified). Index for total waste generation per capita, material consumption (DMI=Direct Material Input) and gross national production (GNP). Source: Statistics Denmark, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, ISAG 2009.


The generation of waste from private households amounted to approximately 23 % of total waste generation in 2008. The waste generation per capita increased by 43 % from 1994 to 2008, in which period private consumption increased by 22 %. In 2008, household waste generation per capita amounted to 1.8 kg.


Figure 6

Figure 6: Household consumption and waste generation per capita. Source: Statistics Denmark


The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

In the Danish Waste Strategy 2009‑2012, the objective for recycling is set to 65 % as a minimum, for landfill a maximum of 6 % by 2012 and the remaining waste amounts to be incinerated. The recycling objective was already reached in 2003 at the overall level, i.e. before any of the strategies were launched. The Danish implementation of the 2006 EU Directive for batteries has furthermore resulted in an indicative objective for the collection of portable batteries of 45 % by 2012. This deadline is earlier than defined in the directive.

Projection of waste generation is based on a model (FRIDA 2008) using the Finance Ministry’s projection of the economic development described in the Danish 2015 plan and based on evaluation of market trends from 2007. Projections from 2006 to 2020 show, that the total amount of waste will increase by 6.8 %. The increase is much less compared to the general economic development and the development in private consumption, which are projected to increase by 23 % and 32 %, respectively. This is due to, among others, a significant reduction of the coal‑based energy production. In general, there is a significant change in waste management towards higher recycling and lower incineration rates of waste.


Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The national waste policy is to regulate, through economic measures, prevention of waste and set targets for waste handling. Waste taxes are set so that landfilling of waste is the most expensive and recycling is the least expensive waste management option.

The national waste policy is based on seven basic elements:

  1. Waste prevention
  2. Reduction of loss of resources
  3. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from waste handling
  4. Reduction of the overall environmental impact from waste
  5. Ensuring highest environmental benefit per cost
  6. Increased quality of waste management
  7. Ensuring an effective waste sector


The Danish waste strategy 2009 to 2012 includes targets set for the recycling of waste, reorganisation of the waste management sector and implementation of the EU Waste Directive from 2008. The second part of the strategy – Waste Strategy ’10 – was issued in June 2010, and includes a number of initiatives to increase waste prevention and encourage development of new waste treatment technology.





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