Record-breaking year for Danish recycling: 92 per cent of bottles and cans returned for recycling

State of Green
By State of Green, April 01, 2020

More than 1.4 billion bottles and cans included in the deposit system were recycled in 2019. This saved the climate for more than 150,000 tonnes of CO2. Recycling has furthermore given a turnover in the billions for the Danish deposit and return system operator.

Should you ever find yourself in a Danish supermarket, you are almost certain to find a reversed vending machine that takes your bottles and gives you cash return. It is an inherent part of Danish consumer and business practice to recycle and 2019 proved a better year than ever for just that.

2019 set new records for the circular economy in Denmark with 61 million more bottles and cans returned compared to the previous year. This meant that 92 per cent of all bottles and cans are recycled – up from 89 per cent the year before.

“The Danish return system is one of the best in the world, not the least because the Danes support the system. Therefore, the record high return percentage we experienced in 2019 is also something that all Danes can be proud to have contributed to,” said Lars Krejberg Petersen, Managing Director of Dansk Retursystem in a press release (in Danish).

-Related news: Recycling centres rival major tourist attractions in number of visitors

The success of the Danish recycling of bottles and cans relies on the ordinary Danish households bringing their bottles and cans to recycling stations and reversed vending machines. A record 1.4 billion bottles and cans were returned and recycled in 2019. This a substantial increase since Dansk Retursystem took its current form in 2002, where 41.2 million empty bottles and cans were returned and recycled.

The Danish way of keeping plastic bottles out of the ocean

The return system also helps keep the oceans clean from plastic bottles. One of the highest rates of recycling comes from plastic bottles, where 94 per cent is returned and recycled.

Meanwhile, there has been an increase in the amount of bottles returned, as more than 1,700 consumer products were added to the deposit system last year – many of them plastic bottles.

“The amount of disposable beverage packages is increasing year by year. In Denmark, we have a return system that has been able to keep up with the increased volumes. At the same time, we are getting better and better at recycling the materials for the benefit of the environment and the climate,” said Lars Krejberg Petersen.

-Related solution: Carpet made from fishing nets and recycled plastic

Recycled bottles = good business

In 2019, a historically high return rate and increased interest in the circular economy once again secured the Dansk Retursystem a billion-class turnover. Net revenue reached 2.2 billion DKK (equivalent to EUR 290 million) in 2019. Dansk Retursystem’s income comes from bottle and can deposits, sales of recyclable materials and fees.

The increased amounts of returns are pushing capacity at the Dansk Returssytem’s factories. Therefore, Dansk Retursystem is opening more recycling plants. In February 2020, Dansk Retursystem opened a new and highly technological plant (in Danish) that ensures an even more efficient recycling of the bottles and cans. Meanwhile, the plant is designed with CO2 reduction in mind through a more efficient operation and through focusing on achieving full circularity in the plant’s operation.



Dansk Retursystem (in Danish)

Dansk Retursystem (in Danish)

CleantechWatch (in Danish)

Photo by Lacey Williams on Unsplash

Did you like this article?

State of Green
  • 1 Solutions
  • 1584 News
Primary contact
Magnus Højberg Mernild
Head of Press

Explore associated sectors

Looking for our logo?

Find it in the State of Green Toolbox together with loads of materials to help you promote Denmark’s green solutions abroad.
Visit toolbox