copy the linklink copied!Chapter 4. Waste, materials management and the circular economy

Denmark has long been an OECD leader in using incineration with energy recovery to reduce the amount of waste landfilled. Nevertheless, increasing household waste recycling and implementing meaningful waste prevention measures to address very high levels of waste generation are still major challenges. A new national strategy for circular economy, adopted in September 2018, and the subsequent political agreement aim to provide new impetus for alternative business models that put resource efficiency, waste prevention and recycling at the heart of production and consumption. This chapter gives an overview of trends in material use and waste generation, and of related policies. It reviews the effectiveness of instruments used to encourage waste prevention, reduction and recycling, and identifies implementation gaps and opportunities in moving towards a circular economy.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

copy the linklink copied!4.1. Introduction

Denmark has long been a front runner in the OECD on reducing the amount of waste landfilled and viewing waste as an important resource. It has a comprehensive policy mix of regulatory measures (ban on landfilling waste that can be incinerated, compulsory audit of buildings to be demolished to facilitate removal of polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs]), economic instruments (taxes on landfilling, waste incineration and packaging, product charges, raw material extraction tax, extended producer responsibility and deposit-refund programmes for beverage containers), market and innovation support measures (funding for innovation and green public procurement) and information programmes (eco-label promotion).

It has made impressive achievements in terms of recovery and recycling for most waste streams. In particular, construction and demolition (C&D) waste management is among best OECD practices. Household waste recycling, however, remains a notable exception. Heavy public investment in incineration for municipal waste treatment has created a path dependency featuring high levels of municipal waste generation and limited domestic recycling infrastructure. Municipalities, the main owners of waste incineration plants, face excess waste incineration capacity.

Current policies and strategies are trying to address these shortcomings, with mixed results. The 2016 Utilities for the Future strategy proposes an in-depth reorganisation of the waste management sector, increasing competition among incineration operators and the role of the private sector in collection and recycling. However, discussions over practical implementation have stalled, and uncertainty over the future waste management framework is deterring investment in a circular economy. In this context, the national circular economy strategy, adopted in September 2018, and subsequent political agreement provide a welcome new impetus for alternative business models that put resource efficiency and recycling at the heart of production and consumption.

This chapter gives an overview of trends in material use and in waste generation and treatment. It presents the Danish policy objectives and institutional settings for waste, materials management and transition to a circular economy. It also reviews the effectiveness of policy instruments used to encourage waste prevention, reduction and recycling as well as to manage the transition towards a circular economy.

copy the linklink copied!4.2. Trends in waste management and material consumption

4.2.1. Trends in material consumption

The Danish economy uses a significant amount of resources. In 2017, domestic material consumption (DMC) per capita was around 24 tonnes, far above the averages for OECD Europe (13 tonnes per capita) and the OECD (15 tonnes per capita). While DMC was decoupled from economic growth in 2008, at the time of the global economic crisis, it has been rising again since 2014 (Figure 4.1).

About half of DMC consists of non-metallic minerals, particularly stone, gravel and sand extracted from the environment for construction activities. Such activities thus heavily influence recent trends in material consumption. Since the economic slowdown ended, the construction sector has been recovering, boosted by large infrastructure projects such as the Copenhagen metro and Fehmarnbelt tunnel. Planned transport infrastructure investment is estimated at DKK 100 billion (EUR 13.5 billion). Over 2010-16, production grew by 17.2% in the construction sector and 36.6% in civil engineering (European Commission, 2018[1]).

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Figure 4.1. Material consumption was decoupled from economic growth but is trending up
Figure 4.1. Material consumption was decoupled from economic growth but is trending up

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002243

Denmark extracted around 110 million tonnes of raw materials in 2016 (58% of direct material input) and imported 65 million tonnes (37% of direct material input) of the resources needed for its economy. The main import category, representing half of total imports, is fossil fuels, even though Denmark extracted 11 million tonnes of oil and gas. It was a net exporter of crude oil for almost all the review period, but became a net importer in 2016 (SD, 2017[2]). Waste is also a noteworthy material flow, at 2.3 million tonnes exported and 1 million tonnes imported.

Resource productivity (economic value generated per unit of material used) increased from USD 1.57 to USD 1.99 per kg of material consumption between 2005 and 2017. This suggests that the economy generally used resources more efficiently towards the end of the review period. However, resource productivity remained below the averages for the OECD (at USD 2.49 per kg) and OECD Europe (USD 2.75 per kg) in 2017 (Figure 4.2). This reflects mainly the pre-eminence of the construction sector and high share of non-metallic minerals in DMC.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that resource productivity will improve by 16% by 2030 (MEF, 2016[3]) but notes that past and future development in resource use and productivity heavily depends on the construction sector. Construction is unlikely to slow in coming years. Denmark has the third oldest building stock in Europe and energy policies may lead to increased refurbishment. Furthermore, climate change policies may require construction of coastal protection systems. Sand and gravel are abundant and cheap, and 87% of C&D waste is recovered, representing a limited alternative to the raw material.

Phasing out fossil fuels to meet the objective of reducing dependence on fossil energy carriers by 2050 will have limited impact on resource use. A reduction of fossil fuels in DMC from 24 million tonnes in 2014 to around 19.7 million tonnes in 2030 is expected.

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Figure 4.2. Resource productivity remains low by international comparison
Figure 4.2. Resource productivity remains low by international comparison

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002262

4.2.2. Trends in waste generation and management

Total waste

Total waste generation increased substantially during the review period. Between 2010 and 2016, it rose by 30%, from about 15 million tonnes to 20 million tonnes. The increase was linked to C&D waste generation, which accounted for nearly 61% of total waste generated in 2016 (Figure 4.3). While waste generation increased overall, it decreased in several economic sectors, including utilities, mining and quarrying, and manufacturing.

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Figure 4.3. Construction waste accounts for most of Denmark's waste generation
Figure 4.3. Construction waste accounts for most of Denmark's waste generation

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002281

Municipal waste

Denmark has reported the highest amount of municipal waste per capita in the OECD since 2007, reaching 785 kg per inhabitant in 2017, far above the OECD average of 524 kg (Figure 4.4). This may be due in part to national methodological specificities; for example, Denmark reported 127 kg of garden waste per capita under municipal waste in 2017. Even without garden waste, however, Denmark would rank among the six largest OECD municipal waste generators in 2017, at 658 kg per capita.

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Figure 4.4. Danish per capita municipal waste generation is the highest in the OECD
Figure 4.4. Danish per capita municipal waste generation is the highest in the OECD

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002300

Overall, municipal waste generation has increased by 13% since 2005, though it remained stable at around 4.4 million tonnes per year after the introduction of a new waste information system in 2010. During the review period, in 2005-10 and 2011-15, municipal waste generation rose faster than private final consumption. A decoupling between municipal waste generation and private final consumption can be observed in 2016-17, the latest years for which data are available.

In terms of waste treatment, Denmark has been an OECD front-runner in diverting municipal waste from landfill, mainly through incineration with energy recovery. Landfilling decreased from 5% to 1% of municipal waste treated between 2005 and 2017. Incineration with energy recovery accounted for 53% of municipal waste treated in 2017. The rest was composted (19%) or recycled (27%) (Figure 4.5).

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Figure 4.5. Denmark has nearly eliminated landfilling of municipal waste
Figure 4.5. Denmark has nearly eliminated landfilling of municipal waste

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002319

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste represents a small fraction of total waste generation in weight (9% in 2016), but adequate management is crucial to minimise risk to human health and the environment. Since 2011 and the launch of the new waste information system, the level of hazardous waste generation has varied: 422 000 tonnes in 2013, 584 000 tonnes in 2015, and back down to 550 000 tonnes in 2016. The fluctuation mainly reflects an increased focus on collecting and treating waste contaminated with PCBs, in particular when demolishing old buildings containing PCBs. In 2016, 42% of hazardous waste was recycled, 23% incinerated and 17% underwent special treatment, with only 18% destined for disposal.

Specific waste streams

For several waste streams, Denmark experienced significant variations in waste generation during the review period, mainly following economic trends. Waste generation is now back on the rise. For all waste streams, Denmark has made remarkable achievements in terms of recycling and recovery.

Regarding C&D waste, generation declined during the economic crisis and has been rising again since 2011, with 4.3 million tonnes generated in 2016. Denmark achieves high recovery levels for such waste: around 95% over 2007-09 and slightly lower in later years (down to 87% in 2016), probably due to methodological changes as well as improved removal of PCB-contaminated waste.

Packaging waste generation also decreased substantially during the financial crisis, from around 900 000 tonnes in 2008 to 690 000 tonnes in 2009 and 2010, but has since been rising, with 880 000 tonnes generated in 2016. Reported recovery and recycling rates in this stream are also remarkable: in 2015, Denmark recovered 94% of packaging waste and recycled 74%.

During the review period, collection of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) was stable at around 100 000 tonnes, increasing substantially in 2012 (114 000 tonnes) and 2013 (129 000 tonnes). Due to the financial crisis, car owners may have postponed replacing old vehicles, resulting in a scrappage peak thereafter. In 2016, recovery and reuse was estimated at 95% while recycling and reuse reached 89%.

The amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) peaked in 2007 at 98 000 tonnes. It amounted to around 72 000 tonnes in 2015. Recycling and recovery levels that year were high at 84.2% and 92%, respectively.

Industrial waste steadily declined over the period, from 1.8 million tonnes in 2005 to 1.1 million tonnes in 2016. In terms of treatment, 73% of industrial waste is recycled, 18% incinerated and 9% destined for disposal.

Waste shipment

Regarding transboundary movement of waste, Denmark mainly trades waste for recovery with neighbouring European countries and Turkey. Waste destined for recovery represented 93% of imports and 97% of exports in 2015.

Iron, paper and cardboard are among the main export categories, reflecting the limited domestic recycling capacity for these waste streams. Denmark has no steelworks using scrap, and a few and relatively small paper and cardboard mills. The main destination countries for exports are Germany, Turkey, Norway and Sweden. Waste exported to Turkey consists mainly of waste metal.

Imports of waste have risen significantly since 2011, mainly due to increasing import of waste suitable for incineration, but have stabilised since 2014, reflecting excess incineration capacity (Figure 4.6).

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Figure 4.6. Imports of waste rose significantly from 2011 but stabilised in 2014, while exports are trending down
Figure 4.6. Imports of waste rose significantly from 2011 but stabilised in 2014, while exports are trending down

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002338

Waste management expenditure

Overall, the cost of waste management services increased substantially during the review period. Total public expenditure (current and capital expenditure) on waste management increased by 17% between 2005 and 2016 to around DKK 11.5 billion (EUR 1.54 billion). Investment in waste management has increased by 15% since 2010 (Figure 4.7). In 2016, total turnover of public and private companies in waste management amounted to DKK 17.2 billion (EUR 2.3 billion) in 2016.

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Figure 4.7. Expenditure and investment trends in municipal waste management
Figure 4.7. Expenditure and investment trends in municipal waste management

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002357

The cost of waste management services for Danish households is among the highest for EU countries of the OECD. The cost has grown faster than municipal waste generation (Figure 4.8). Thus the increase reflects not only higher levels of waste generation but also a rise in average cost per tonne.

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Figure 4.8. The cost of waste management for Danish households is high by international comparison
Figure 4.8. The cost of waste management for Danish households is high by international comparison

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002376

Although the amount of industrial waste is decreasing, waste management expenditure by Danish manufacturing industries is on the rise and reached about DKK 800 million (EUR 107 million) in 2016. The food and beverage industry and the chemical sector have the highest expenditure levels (Figure 4.9).

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Figure 4.9. Waste management expenditure by industry
Figure 4.9. Waste management expenditure by industry

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002395

copy the linklink copied!4.3. Objectives, policies and institutions for waste, materials management and circular economy

4.3.1. Policy framework and objectives

During the review period (2005-18), Denmark defined its main policies and objectives related to waste management in a series of plans and strategies.

The third national Danish Waste Plan, launched in 2003 for 2005-08, aimed not only at reducing the environmental impact of waste but also increasing effectiveness in the waste sector. In terms of waste prevention, the objective was not to decrease overall waste generation but rather to decouple its increase from economic growth. The plan included targets to increase recycling to 65% and incineration with energy recovery to 26% while reducing landfilling to 9%. It also included EU requirements and targets for certain waste streams (packaging, WEEE, ELV) (Copenhagen Resource Institute, 2013[4]).

The fourth national Danish Waste Plan (2009-12) was developed in two parts: a strategic part linking waste management with the objectives of climate, resource and environmental protection policy, followed in 2010 by a second part focusing on prevention, particularly as regards food waste. The main targets from the previous plan were unchanged except the one on landfilling, which was lowered to 6% by 2012.

The current strategy on waste management and resources, launched in 2013 as Denmark without Waste: Recycle More, Incinerate Less (Government of Denmark, 2013[5]), represents a paradigm change for a country that relies heavily on incineration with energy recovery to divert waste, especially household waste, from landfill. The strategic goals are reflected in the latest national waste management plan, Denmark without waste: Resource Plan for Waste Management 2013-2018, launched in 2014.

The strategy and plan establish one main quantitative target: to collect 50% of seven household waste fractions (biowaste, paper, cardboard, glass, wood, plastic and metal) for recycling by 2022 (by contrast, 75% of household waste was incinerated in 2011). This target reflects the EU Waste Framework Directive target of separately collecting 50% of the dry fractions of municipal waste (paper, cardboard, plastic and metal), although the EU targets have a different basis for assessment. In addition, the strategy includes indicative targets to measure its effects on specific sectors (Table 4.1). For instance, recycling of organic waste from the service sector (restaurants, food shops) is expected to reach 60% by 2022. Apart from the household waste target, most legally binding targets for waste management derive from EU targets.

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Table 4.1. Denmark has a mix of mandatory and indicative targets for waste and resource management
Mandatory targets for municipal waste management are mainly derived from EU directives

Waste

Targets

 

2020

%

2025

%

2030

%

2035

%

Household waste (collected for recycling)

50

 

 

 

Municipal waste (actual recycling)

-

55

60

65

Landfill

-

 

 

10

Packaging waste

55

65

70

 

Plastic

22.5

50

55

 

Wood

15

25

30

 

Iron and metal

50

(all metal)

70

80

 

Aluminium

 

50

60

 

Glass

60

70

75

 

Paper and cardboard

60

75

85

 

Source: Country submission.

Indicative targets (expected effects) are set in the 2013 “Denmark without Waste” strategy

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Expected effects

Baseline (2011 figures)

 

 

2018

2022 goal

Recycled

Incinerated

Landfilled

Source

Material type (fraction)

Min%

Min%

%

%

%

Households

Collection of WEEE

75

68*

Service sector

Recycling of paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic packaging

70

53

47

0

Recycling of organic waste

60

17

83

All

Energy recovery from garden waste

25

87

4

4

Collection of WEEE

65

Collection of batteries

55

47

Recovery of shredder waste

70

0

Recycling of phosphorus in sewage sludge

80

* Average of amount placed on the market in the past three years.

Source: Country submission.

A waste prevention strategy, Denmark without Waste II (Government of Denmark, 2015[6]), was launched in 2015 for 2015-27. It identifies two crosscutting topics (supporting resource efficiency among businesses and green consumption) and five action areas (food waste, construction, textile, electrical and electronic equipment, and packaging). The strategy has seven qualitative targets combined with nine quantitative indicators to monitor progress on all topics and action areas, such as the number of businesses with a certified environmental management system, the number of eco-labelled products, and waste generation in specific industry sectors and in households. A six-year revision of the strategy is envisaged.

A circular economy strategy (MEF and MIBFA, 2018[7]) was adopted in September 2018 (Box 4.1). It does not include additional policy targets, but instead recognises the role of private companies as a driving force for the transition to a circular economy, envisaging voluntary commitment by the private sector to increase resource productivity by 40% between 2014 and 2030 and increase recycling to 80% of total waste (excluding mineral waste) generated.

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Box 4.1. The advisory board on circular economy and the circular economy strategy

Denmark has long been involved in preparation of its circular economy strategy. In the autumn of 2016, the government established the advisory board on circular economy composed of 12 business leaders representing companies of all sizes and from a range of sectors. The board was chaired by the chairman of Carlsberg, and benefitted from a joint secretariat formed by MEF and MIBFA. The EPA and the Danish Business Authority were also part of the secretariat.

The board published its main report with 27 recommendations in June 2017 (MEF, 2017[8]). It recommended that Denmark should adopt the following objectives:

  • deriving more value from materials to increase resource productivity by 40% (based on amounts) and 15% (based on value)

  • increasing circularity to 80% recycling of total waste (excluding mineral waste) and reducing total waste (excluding mineral waste) by 15%

  • retaining the lead in development of circular technology and solutions

  • using excess capacity better by getting 50% of the population active in the sharing economy

  • boosting circular economy by quadrupling turnover of eco-labelled products and services.

Denmark launched the circular economy strategy in September 2018. It identifies 15 initiatives in six main chapters:

  • strengthening companies as the driving force for the circular transition

  • supporting circular economy through data and digitalisation

  • promoting circular design

  • changing consumption patterns through circular economics

  • creating a well-functioning market for waste and secondary raw materials

  • deriving more value from buildings and biomass.

The recommendations from the advisory board and the strategy are supported by key business organisations, including the Confederation of Industries, the Chamber of Commerce, the Construction Association and the Agriculture and Food Council.

The strategy also refers to the new mandatory EU targets and requirements. In May 2018, the EU adopted a circular economy package introducing ambitious binding targets for recycling of municipal waste (55% in 2025, 60% in 2030 and 65% in 2035) and packaging waste (65% in 2025 and 70% in 2030). Other new requirements relevant for Denmark include separate collection of biowaste by 2023 and establishment of extended producer responsibility for packaging by 2025.

Other national strategies are of relevance for Denmark’s waste, materials management and transition to a circular economy. The national strategy on the sharing economy (Government of Denmark, 2017[9]) aims to maximise use of assets such as cars and buildings, ultimately leading to less consumption. A utilities strategy, Supply for the Future, which is under discussion, is expected to significantly modify the organisation of waste management services. It proposes increased competition in the incineration sector by letting business freely choose where to send combustible waste and making it compulsory for municipalities to organise public tenders for household waste treatment for recycling and incineration. It also suggests directing all recyclable waste treatment to the private sector; the role is currently divided between municipalities and the private sector.

4.3.2. Legal framework

Denmark has an extensive legal framework to address the environmentally sound waste management. It consists of a general framework law complemented by regulations for specific waste streams, treatment methods and specific policy aspects of waste management (data system, deposit programmes).

The Environmental Protection Act (Consolidation Act No. 966 of 23 June 2017) provides the general framework law and establishes the main objectives of environmental protection, including for waste. It is accompanied by a framework regulation, the Statutory Order on Waste (Affaldsbekendtgørelsen), the main legal instrument governing waste management.

Regulations cover various waste streams (batteries, ELVs, tyres, WEEE, residual waste, bio-ash, soil moving), waste treatment types (incineration, landfill) and aspects of waste management policies (data, register, impact assessment, environmental supervision, deposit systems). Regarding taxation, a 2011 law establishes taxes on waste and raw materials while a regulation establishes a packaging tax.

4.3.3. Institutional framework and governance

At the national level, responsibility for waste management policy is shared by the Ministry of Environment and Food (MEF) for overall policy objectives (environmental aspects, recycling promotion, etc.) and the Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities (MCEU) for economic regulation of the sector and delivery of waste management services.

The transition to a circular economy is the primary responsibility of MEF, which co-ordinates inter-ministerial processes involving other ministries (Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs (MIBFA), MCEU, Ministry of Transport and Building, and Ministry of Higher Education and Science). This includes co-ordination of the circular economy strategy. MEF also co-ordinated an inter-ministerial task force on increased resource efficiency, which carried out studies to identify barriers to business uptake of resource efficiency policies. Activities are being conducted to create communication tools and guidance on the definition of waste and end-of-waste criteria, waste import and export rules, and interpretation of VAT regulations for used products.

Denmark has a strong tradition of stakeholder platforms and reflection groups, with many councils, advisory boards and partnerships involving public authorities. The Bioeconomy Council gathers businesses, industry associations and universities to promote development of value chains and is working on bio-based products, focusing on plastics, textiles and construction. The advisory board on circular economy (Box 4.1) prepared recommendations on elaboration of the circular economy strategy. Partnerships involving industry and business as well as public authorities deal with a wide range of practical issues related to implementation of national strategies on green public procurement, WEEE collection, sustainable construction and waste prevention, reduction of food waste, etc.

At the local level, the 98 municipalities are the main entities responsible for waste management. The five regional councils were in charge of orphan contaminated sites, but in March 2019 the government decided that this and other regional responsibilities would be transferred to the national level. Municipalities benefit from a large degree of autonomy in waste management planning and develop 12-year waste management plans at least every 6 years, in addition to infrastructure development, permitting and monitoring of waste management facilities (except the largest ones, which are controlled at the national level). Inter-municipal co-operation is also common. In many cases, municipalities own or co-own waste treatment facilities. Eighty-two municipalities are owners or co-owners of waste incineration plants.

Municipal responsibilities are evolving. Since January 2010, they are no longer responsible for managing recyclable waste from businesses, including commercial, industrial and C&D waste. Thus they can no longer collect or treat this waste, with some exceptions, for instance where waste is collected from buildings with both households and businesses. In addition, 23 municipal waste facilities hold permits to continue treating waste from businesses.

As municipalities are in charge of waste classification, they are largely free to direct high shares of total waste to the treatment facilities of their choice (e.g. the incinerator they own). What one municipality considers waste may not be classified as such in a neighbouring municipality. Waste classified as recyclable in one municipality is suitable for incineration in another. There have been complaints by private companies and industry sectors about waste classification differing among municipalities, adding to operators’ administrative burden. This lack of harmonisation makes the playing field uneven for enterprises operating across municipal borders.

In addition, as the majority of municipalities own or co-own incineration plants and have excess treatment capacity, they tend to direct waste to the incinerator they own. There are no market-based incentives for municipal incinerators to compete on price, environmental performance and efficiency; tipping fees range from about EUR 34 to about EUR 120 per tonne of waste incinerated.

The circular economy strategy and political agreement aim at harmonising criteria for waste sorting and collection to create economies of scale. The Utilities for the Future strategy is also expected to increase competition and tendering in the waste incineration sector, which would improve cost-effectiveness. There is some evidence that flow control between municipalities, resulting in restricted competition in the incineration market, leads to higher treatment costs. A Norwegian study found that the average price charged for treatment of combustible waste where there was competition was less than half that charged for similar waste subject to a monopoly obligation (OECD, 2013[10]).

4.3.4. The information base

Denmark is well equipped to monitor trends in waste and materials management, with a comprehensive system on material flows and management in its green national accounts under Statistics Denmark. The green national accounts follow international guidelines such as the Central Framework of the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting. They capture flows of natural resources, materials and waste as well as information on natural resource stocks and green economy indicators.

Regarding material flows, the green national accounts take an economy-wide approach, with indicators such as DMC, direct material input, imports, exports and resource productivity calculations. Denmark also uses environmentally extended input-output analysis, with input-output tables in monetary units for the various sectors of the economy, and is a front runner in developing this type of data. Statistics Denmark has been working on detailed supply and use tables and input-output tables for 20 years. Annual monetary supply and use tables feature a breakdown of 117 industries and some 2 300 products.

More recently, Statistics Denmark developed material flow accounts broken down by industry and households, thanks to extra government funding for 2015-17. This level of detailed data is still in prototype and not fully quality assured or consistent. It is likely to enrich a well-developed information base and help in monitoring progress in the transition towards a circular economy, as well as SDG reporting. Extra funding has also been secured for 2019-20 in conjunction with a project to better incorporate green national accounts into economic models.

In 2016, the EPA published a report on material resource productivity with a detailed analysis of recent trends and scenarios for development of resource productivity. A pilot project is under way to develop a raw material consumption indicator measuring all material resources used in the economy, including resource use embedded in imports.

The waste information system, an EPA responsibility, improved considerably in 2010 with the launch of a waste data system, AffaldsDataSystemet (ADS), and is now based on a waste management register with mandatory reporting from waste collectors, receivers, exporters and importers. Previously only waste treatment facilities reported waste data, with major consistency and quality assurance issues. Waste operators have to provide information about type of waste, treatment and weight as well as the waste’s origin and planned treatment and destination. Waste is classified according to European List of Waste codes, and waste producers according to industry or NACE codes. Danish authorities use early checks and control systems to improve data quality and the EPA contacts each reporter individually to help improve reports. The country publishes annual waste statistic reports, which are available to the public.

ADS data are complemented by data from the Producer Responsibility System (DPA), for instance on WEEE and batteries. The DPA registers quantities of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market.

Denmark carefully monitors transboundary movements, not only of waste that could pose risk to human health and the environment and waste that should be reported to Eurostat, but also overall waste shipments, including green-listed waste exported for recovery.

4.3.5. International co-operation and outreach

Denmark has established a range of good practices on waste, materials management and circular economy for other countries to learn from. For instance, the Kalundborg green industrial complex (Kalundborg Symbiosis, 2018[11]), a partnership of nine public and private enterprises that formed one of the first examples of industrial symbiosis around the Asnaes power plant, has been an inspiration for the design of eco-industrial parks around the world. The country has well-known research centres promoting best practices in waste management. Technical University of Denmark, for example, promotes life cycle analysis accounting for waste systems and provides software tools and training for waste managers (Dri, M. et al, 2018[12]).

The Danish Business Authority is a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100 Government and Cities programme to exchange best practices in the transition to a circular economy. The EPA has also contributed to this programme. Denmark was a pilot country for the foundation’s work on a toolkit for policy makers (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015[13]).

Denmark collaborates with other Nordic countries (Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden, along with the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Aland Islands). Two working groups dedicated to waste management (Nordic Waste Group) and sustainable consumption and production were merged in 2019 to form a circular economy working group.

Denmark also has bilateral co-operation agreements on waste in the form of memoranda of understanding with countries including Turkey, Indonesia and Kenya. It is active in UN Environment’s work related to implementation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Wastes and Their Disposal. It is a contracting party to the 2009 Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.

copy the linklink copied!4.4. Promoting waste reduction and recycling

4.4.1. From incineration to higher recycling of municipal waste

Denmark has succeeded in diverting municipal waste from landfills using an efficient policy mix of regulatory and economic instruments (EEA, 2016[14]), such as the 1997 ban on landfilling waste that can be incinerated and the gradual increase of the landfill tax (Box 4.2). Policy instruments have been geared towards promoting waste to energy. While the third and fourth waste management plans helped divert waste from landfills, they were not as effective in promoting waste prevention and reduction or encouraging more recycling of household waste.

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Box 4.2. Taxes on landfilling and incineration

Denmark introduced taxes on landfilling and incineration in January 1987 to create incentives to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration and to increase recycling.

The landfill tax per tonne of waste gradually increased from DKK 40 in 1987 (EUR 5.3) to DKK 475 (EUR 64) in 2018 (PwC, 2018[15]). A refund is granted for waste later removed for recycling, so the tax is levied only for waste actually being disposed of. Revenue from the tax was originally earmarked for environmental protection but this is no longer the case. While the landfill tax, combined with a ban on landfilling combustible waste, was instrumental in reducing landfilling levels in the 1990s, it seemed to have limited effect on the amount of waste going to landfill and on recycling rates after 2001 (EEA, 2016[14]).

The incineration tax was replaced in 2010 by a tax based on the energy content of the waste. Nowadays a combination of taxes applies to waste incineration:

  • The waste heating tax is based on the amount of heat produced from waste incineration, including heat used at the plant for indoor heating or water heating. In 2018 this tax amounted to DKK 19.80 (EUR 2.66) per GJ. It is coupled with an additional tax based on heating production according to the energy content of the input waste, which amounts to DKK 26.50 (EUR 3.56) per GJ. These two taxes ensure that the same energy tax rate is levied on heat whether it is generated from waste incineration or fossil fuels, which are subject to energy taxation.

  • The CO2 tax is levied per tonne of CO2 emissions from waste incineration, except for waste loads containing pure biomass. By 2018 the tax amounted to DKK 173.20 (EUR 23.2) per tonne. In addition, most waste incineration plants take part in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), and pay emission allowances for heat and electricity production. Waste incineration plants are therefore subject to double regulation on CO2 emissions.

  • Taxes on emissions of NOX and sulphur are imposed on some waste incineration plants. The tax on sulphur emissions is DKK 10.50 (EUR 1.41) per tonne, and that on NOX emissions is DKK 5.10 (EUR 0.68) per tonne (PwC, 2018[15]).

Nowadays, the taxes on incineration seem mainly designed to ensure a level playing field in the energy sector while also helping divert waste towards recycling. However, there is no recent analysis on the impact of incineration taxes on recycling rates.

In 2010, a per tonne tax on hazardous waste treatment, both incineration and landfill, began being charged. In 2013, it was set at DKK 160 (EUR 21.45); in 2015 it was increased to the level for non-hazardous waste (NCM, 2014[16]).

Source: Country submission.

Recent pushes towards increased recycling seem directly driven by the introduction of mandatory EU recycling targets and reinforced by the adoption of the EU circular economy package in May 2018. This focus on recycling is starting to deliver in terms of performance, but risks causing financial losses to municipalities left with excess waste to energy capacity. In this context, despite a dedicated strategy for waste prevention, there are still limited incentives to address the high levels of waste generated.

Towards higher recycling levels for municipal waste…

Denmark promotes recycling of municipal waste, starting with separate collection of recyclable waste. A 2009 statutory order on waste requires municipalities to establish separate collection of paper, cardboard and recyclable packaging such as glass, metal and plastic. In addition, municipalities have to follow the EU waste hierarchy when developing their 12-year waste management plans. They thus should give priority to prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, recovery including energy recovery, and finally disposal. An increasing number of municipalities are setting up additional programmes for sorting other types of waste. For instance, between 2016 and November 2018, the number of municipalities with a system for source separation of organic waste grew from 22 to 40 (out of a total of 98).

Nevertheless, households’ behaviour and contribution to waste sorting could still be improved. In 2014, only 60% of Danish respondents reporting separating waste for recycling, below the EU average of 72% (European Commission, 2014[17]).

Regional disparities in recycling performance can be observed. Central and Southern Denmark have more advanced recycling practices than North Denmark. However, the differences are minimal. Recycling of household waste is increasing in all Danish regions and particularly quickly in Zealand (Figure 4.10).

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Figure 4.10. Recycling of household waste is increasing in all Danish regions
Figure 4.10. Recycling of household waste is increasing in all Danish regions

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934002414

To help municipalities exchange information on best practices, Denmark has set up a web platform (Genanvend, 2018[18]) focusing on household waste recycling. The platform gathers inspirational case studies (Box 4.3).

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Box 4.3. Exchanging best practices among municipalities: Genanvend platform

As municipalities have important waste management responsibilities, they are key to the success of waste strategies. When the 2013 Denmark without Waste: Recycle More, Incinerate Less strategy was launched, municipalities required guidance and assistance to change their waste management methods.

At municipalities’ request, a knowledge platform was set up with a dedicated website. Called Genanvend, which means “recycle”, it includes technical reports and inspirational cases from municipalities as well as contact information to facilitate exchanges. It also includes the results of 80 projects financed by the EPA on household waste recycling.

In addition to the platform, a dedicated EPA team reached out to municipalities to animate the network and share information on waste collection and recycling.

As a result, an increasing number of municipalities started collecting separate household waste fractions such as plastic, cardboard and metal, and Denmark’s household waste recycling rates for plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, metal, wood and organic waste are on course to meet the target of 50% by 2022.

Source: (Genanvend, 2018[18]).

The midterm evaluation of the waste strategy (EPA, 2017[19]) showed the country on track to meet its objective of increasing recycling of seven fractions of household waste to 50% in 2022. Recycling of plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, metal, wood and organic waste, considered jointly, rose from 22% in 2011 to 36% in 2016, the latest year for which data are available.

… and excess capacity for waste to energy

Converting waste to energy as efficiently as possible has long been a priority for Denmark, a pioneer in this regard. The first waste incinerator was built in 1903 in Frederiksberg, next to Copenhagen, as an innovative way to create steam and electricity for a nearby hospital. The construction of incineration plants was boosted in the 1970s with installation of district heating infrastructure following the oil crises and in 1997 with the introduction of the ban on landfilling waste suitable for incineration (DAKOFA, 2018[20]).

Today, the country is well equipped with waste to energy facilities. It has 23 waste incinerators (including 2 special facilities treating hazardous and other waste) and overall capacity of 4.3 million tonnes. Current waste incineration plants produce around 20% of the country’s district heating and 5% of its electricity consumption (DAKOFA, 2018[20]).

The largest incinerator, operated by a publicly owned entity, Vestforbrænding, incinerated around 530 000 tonnes of household and business waste in 2016, leading to production of 1 166 000 MWh of heat and 254 000 MWh of electricity (Vestforbrænding, 2018[21]). The latest plant, in Amager Bakke, started operating in 2017 and has special features such as an artificial ski slope, a hiking slope and a climbing wall, making it a notable attempt to better integrate incineration into public space (Amager Resource Centre, 2018[22]). The plant, with capacity to treat some 560 000 tonnes of waste, replaces an older plant. Such incinerators are presented as a part of Copenhagen's ambition to become zero carbon by 2025.

As Denmark moves towards more recycling and less incineration, it is experiencing excess incineration capacity. This is problematic, as incineration costs increase significantly if less waste is processed than the plant was designed for.

Hence Denmark imports large amounts of waste for incineration, in particular refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from the United Kingdom, to operate plants efficiently. Imports for incineration increased from 267 000 tonnes in 2014 to 351 000 tonnes in 2016, when they accounted for about 10% of incinerated waste (EPA, 2018[23]) (Table 4.2).

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Table 4.2. Imports of waste for incineration have more than doubled in recent years

Imports of waste suitable for incineration (thousand tonnes)

 

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

Germany

9

13

24

50

United Kingdom

98

231

307

276

Ireland

33

11

6

13

Norway

20

11

14

13

Total

160

266

351

352

Share of total waste incineration

5%

8%

10%

10%

Source: EPA (2018), Affaldsstatistikken 2016 [Waste Statistics 2016].

Now the UK is extending its own incineration capacity, which could have a major impact on RDF markets. With neighbouring Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden also experiencing excess capacity, and price competition rising, there is a risk that some plants may be forced to close prior to the end of their expected lifespan (Brown, 2016[24]).

Other than disseminating good recycling practices, it is unclear how Denmark aims to help municipalities adapt to the changing paradigm (less waste, less incineration, more recycling). This is particularly important as municipalities own most of the waste management infrastructure – 90% of the 40 operating landfills and all 22 dedicated waste incineration facilities – whereas some 300 out of the approximately 350 recycling plants are privately owned. Waste incinerators have been mostly financed through public funding in the form of municipal loans from a special credit institution, Kommunie Kredit, with municipal guarantees.

Waste prevention and reduction efforts remain insufficient

While recycling of municipal waste is rising, prevention and reduction of household waste remains a critical issue. Indeed, the number of Danes reporting some waste reduction practice is falling. In 2014, 21% of Danes reported reducing waste by avoiding overpackaging or buying products with a longer life span, down from 28% in 2011 and below the EU average of 33% (European Commission, 2014[17]).

While Denmark has a policy of full cost recovery for municipal waste collection and management services (Box 4.4), municipalities are responsible for setting waste fees. Several municipalities operate pay-as-you-throw programmes with volume-based waste charges, which encourage waste prevention. Some municipalities have experimented with prepaid refuse bags (Dri, M. et al, 2018[12]).

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Box 4.4. Municipal waste charges

A policy of full cost recovery for municipal waste collection and disposal services is embedded in Denmark’s legal framework (Environmental Protection Act and statutory order on waste). Municipalities thus charge households and companies according to the cost of waste management services and cannot cross-subsidise waste management programmes. Those that charge an overall waste management fee to households must be able to break down the various types of service (administration, waste for incineration, dry recyclables, and hazardous, garden and bulky waste).

Within such a framework, municipal waste charges cannot be used to finance waste prevention activities and programmes.

Businesses located in buildings that also contain households may take part in the collection of dry recyclables and are charged separately for it. For other private companies, municipalities must offer access to at least one recycling station. The fee for such access can be paid per visit or by subscription. Municipalities may provide collection of waste for incineration, for which businesses would also pay a separate fee.

Businesses were formerly charged a municipal fee for administration (e.g. planning, regulation) relating to businesses. This fee was abolished in January 2019, mainly because the cost of administrating it (collection, exemptions and complaints) amounted to almost half of the revenue of the fee. The expenses paid by the fee is now financed through taxes.

Around 7% of household waste is avoidable food waste (247 000 tonnes in 2017). This issue is a priority of the waste prevention strategy. A partnership on reducing food waste by businesses, stakeholders and authorities was formed between 2014 and 2017 to identify possible solutions. A subsidy supported projects to reduce food waste in the food value chain through an awareness raising campaign called Check the Date in 2016 and 2018 to better inform people about food labelling. The Food Waste Hunters initiative in 2016-17 engaged with commercial food service kitchens sector on waste reduction opportunities. In 2016, the food donation rules were modified to facilitate such donations from businesses. These efforts are starting to have tangible results: it is estimated that Danish households reduced food waste by 8% per person per year between 2011 and 2017.

Plastic waste from households is another priority, although it represents a smaller fraction of household waste (134 000 to 198 000 tonnes in 2016, according to Plastic Europe, but estimates are uncertain). Denmark has several economic instruments to influence this waste stream and in 1993 was one of the first countries to require a fee for carrier bags (paper or plastic). The fee of DKK 22 (EUR 2.9) per kg helped halve consumption of plastic bags, but consumption is still around 445 million bags per year. Denmark also has a fee on single-use tableware (knives, forks, spoons, cups, plates and other items). The objective of both instruments is to influence consumer behaviour towards more durable alternatives. A fee on polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was abolished in 2019. The government published a Plastic Action Plan in December 2018 (Box 4.5).

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Box 4.5. The Plastic Action Plan

The Plastic Action Plan was a government proposal that formed the basis for an all-party political agreement in Parliament in January 2019.

The political agreement includes a mix of measures, such as product bans, campaigns, voluntary agreements, research and innovation. It aims to promote waste prevention (e.g. through a ban on free plastic carrier bags and thin plastic carrier bags, and criteria on reducing single use plastic at public events), to increase plastic recycling and recyclability, and to both better understand micro-plastics in the environment and reduce the discharge of them by half.

Source: Country submission.

While waste prevention benefits from a dedicated strategy, waste reduction targets and instruments remain weak: there is no overall objective to reduce waste generation per capita or in absolute terms. Significant market and policy trends (chiefly excess incineration capacity and the focus on securing stable secondary raw material flows to boost recycling and biogas production) contribute to high levels of waste generation. Denmark should balance these trends with stronger incentives for waste prevention.

4.4.2. Extended producer responsibility and deposit-refund programmes

Denmark has several extended producer responsibility programmes mandated by EU requirements, and outperforms EU recycling targets in most instances. It established an independent entity, DPA-system (DPA System, 2018[25]), as a clearinghouse to manage the work of producer responsibility organisations (PROs). Aside from that, the involvement and steering role of public authorities in extended producer responsibility is limited. Enhancing design for environment via such programmes is seen as difficult.

WEEE and batteries

In accordance with EU directives, Denmark mandated extended producer responsibility for WEEE in 2006 and for batteries in 2009. For both waste streams, producers are responsible for the financial and organisational aspects of collecting and treating waste corresponding to their market share. Other obligations include labelling products, informing consumers on waste management, complying with the national producer register and reporting waste statistics. Producers can choose between managing their duties individually or joining a PRO to act on their behalf. They have to ensure that minimum collection, recovery and recycling targets are met. These are set in accordance with EU legislation.

While Denmark does not regulate or intervene in the business models of PROs, it has set up DPA-system as a clearing house to handle producer registration and monitor the amount of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) put on the market and collected for treatment. Such a system is usually considered to be among OECD best practices, as it helps co-ordinate the PROs’ work and ensure a level playing field for operators. It also ensures that collection is provided everywhere it is needed and that cherry picking of easily accessible or valuable WEEE is avoided. Producers pay a yearly administrative fee to DPA-system.

Of the four PROs operating in Denmark, two are private commercial entities (ERP Denmark and RENE) and two are non-profit associations with EEE producers on the board of directors (LWF and Elretur). As municipalities are in charge of establishing collection points for WEEE and batteries, DPA-system allocates municipal sites annually to producers and PROs. Some PROs have established collection systems via retailers.

While Denmark far exceeded EU recovery/reuse and recycling targets in 2016 for WEEE and batteries (Table 4.3), collection rates were less impressive (48% of marketed EEE and 45% of batteries; the EU target is 45% for each waste stream). Collection of WEEE peaked in 2007 at 98 000 tonnes and has stabilised at around 72 000 tonnes per year since 2013 (Table 4.4).

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Table 4.3. Denmark exceeds EU targets for recovery/reuse and recycling of WEEE and batteries

Waste electrical and electronic equipment, 2016

Danish recovery rate

(%)

EU target

(%)

Danish reuse/ recycling rate

(%)

EU target

(%)

(1) Large household appliances

93

85

81

80

(2) Small household appliances

96

75

95

55

(3) IT & telecom equipment

96

80

94

70

(4) Consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels

(4a) Consumer equipment

96

80

92

70

(4b) Photovoltaic panels

80

70

(5.1) Lighting equipment

95

75

94

55

(5.2) Luminaires

96

75

94

55

(6) Electrical & electronic tools

96

75

92

55

(7) Toys, leisure and sports equipment

96

75

94

55

(8) Medical devices

85

75

79

55

(9) Monitor and control instruments

97

75

95

55

(10) Automatic dispensers

85

80

Batteries, 2016

Danish recycling efficiency, 2017

(%)

EU target

(%)

Lead-acid batteries

79.1

65

Nickel-cadmium batteries

82.0

75

Other batteries (incl. button cells)

55.9

50

Source: Country submission.

As in other OECD countries, important WEEE flows are disappearing from official collection systems, especially WEEE of high value. In 2013, the Electronic Waste Collection Partnership was set up to enhance collection rates and map all flows of WEEE, including those not entering the official system. The partnership carried out several projects to estimate the amount of used EEE exported to third countries, amounts accumulated in society due to consumer behaviour, and thefts from municipal collection points and recycling sites. It is estimated that 50% of WEEE is collected outside the official system (MEF and MIBFA, 2018[7]).

To overcome such difficulties, the circular economy strategy and political agreement proposes allowing additional certified companies (which are in effect already operating on the market) to collect WEEE directly from households for reuse and recycling.

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Table 4.4. Collection of WEEE has decreased and is stabilising

Generation of WEEE

 

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Collected WEEE (tonnes)

60 245

98 308

77 627

84 399

82 931

84 319

76 200

72 080

71 557

72 482

Source: Country submission.

End-of-life vehicles

The extended producer responsibility programme for ELVs was set up in 2007 and applies to old and new cars sold in Denmark. Importers or manufacturers have to ensure that consumers can hand over their used vehicles to be treated in an environmentally sound manner free of charge. In addition, registration in the producer register handled by DPA-system is compulsory. Car importers have established a PRO called Refero to handle their producer obligations including reporting and information obligations.

The programme is complemented by a scrapping allowance (around DKK 2 200) paid when a used car is delivered to an approved car dealer. The allowance applies only to private cars and vans registered in Denmark after 1 July 2000. In 2017, Denmark restructured its taxation of cars to facilitate repair. A high registration tax is charged on all vehicles, including those that are put back on the market after major repair. Repair limits to determine if the registration tax is due will be gradually increased from 2018 to 2020 to facilitate repair. Denmark meets the EU reuse and recovery target of 95% for ELVs and has exceeded the 85% target for recovery and recycling (Table 4.5).

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Table 4.5. End-of-life vehicles

 

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

ELV waste generated (tonnes)

99 354

98 249

101 173

99 515

104 866

100 816

114 392

128 869

118 597

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2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Total recovery and reuse (%)

80

81.2

82.9

82.3

90.7

92.9

92.6

86.7

86.1

95

95

Total recycling and reuse (%)

80

81

82.7

82

90.5

92.8

92.4

86.6

86

90

89

Source: Country submission.

Packaging waste

Denmark achieves high levels of recycling and recovery of packaging waste and this waste stream is experiencing positive trends. Denmark has already met the 2030 recycling target of 70% included in the recent EU circular economy package (Table 4.6).

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Table 4.6. Packaging waste recycling is increasing

Packaging waste

%

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011*

2012

2013

2014

2015

Recovery (%)

92

90

94

97

98

108

108

91

89

93

92

94

Recycling (%)

53

53

56

57

60

84

84

54

62

70

70

74

* Break in the series: in 2011, a new waste information system was set up.

Source: Country submission.

Denmark has applied a deposit system for refillable beverage containers since 1910. Since 2000, the system has been operated by Danskretursystem (The Danish Deposit System: Danskretursytem, 2018[26]), a privately owned non-profit organisation. In 2002, the deposit system was extended to some single use beverage containers (NCM, 2014[16]). The return rate of beverage containers covered by the system (beer, soda, cider, mineral water, lemonade and iced tea) is 90%. The country is well equipped with reverse vending machines. Operating fees paid by importers and producers make up 45% of the system’s revenue and the resale of materials such as plastic, glass and aluminium accounts for 24%. Surplus revenue from deposit funds, which occurs when a beverage container is not returned to a store despite payment of the deposit, represents 29%. The new plastic action plan proposes extending the deposit system in 2020 to include juice and fruit drink concentrate bottles.

Denmark also applies a volume-based tax on packaging waste from several types of beverage container (wine, liquor, beer, mineral water, cider, soda with alcohol, fruit wine). Items included in the deposit-return system are taxed at a lower rate. While the country does not have an extended producer responsibility programme for packaging, it plans to develop one by 2025 as a requirement of the 2018 EU circular economy package.

4.4.3. Towards higher-quality recycling of construction and demolition waste

Construction and demolition waste makes up a majority of total waste generation (54%, including soil). EPA forecasts indicate C&D waste amounts could nearly double by 2030 (Deloitte, 2015[27]). Nearly half of domestic national material consumption is non-metallic minerals, including stone, gravel and sand extracted for construction activities. This makes C&D a key strategic sector for the transition to a circular economy.

Policy instruments to promote resource efficiency in the construction sector include a tax of DKK 5 per m3 on volume of extracted raw material. The level is so low that it does not affect waste prevention, however. Denmark recovers most C&D waste (87% in 2016), demonstrating a long-standing effort to promote recycling for this waste stream and to limit contamination by substances of concern. The weight-based landfill tax and the ability to recover sorted, unpolluted and processed C&D waste without a permit under the Environmental Protection Act have been key factors in this regard (Deloitte, 2015[27]).

To limit contamination of the waste stream by substances of concern for health and the environment, the EPA supported studies and guidance documents for treating contaminated waste such as PCBs. Screening for PCBs is mandatory when demolishing or refurbishing a building dating from 1950 to 1977, to allow for separate removal and appropriate disposal of PCB-containing material. Such mandatory auditing and mapping of buildings or structures to be demolished, dismantled or refurbished is considered a best environmental practice for C&D waste (Dri, M. et al, 2018[12]).

Despite high recycling rates, recovery activities are still low-value operations, mainly using crushed concrete and bricks to replace stone and gravel. To foster higher-quality recycling, Denmark is embarking on a circular agenda for construction, promoting reuse and selective demolition, and support initiatives to create momentum in this respect.

Mechanisms to mobilise stakeholders with public support have enhanced dialogue in the construction value chain (Box 4.6). The Danish Eco-Innovation Programme has funded several knowledge platforms and networks on sustainable construction as well as technology developments on waste prevention in the building sector and on C&D waste.

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Box 4.6. Platforms to mobilise the construction sector on a circular economy agenda
  • A partnership on sustainable construction and waste prevention was established in 2016 to foster collaboration between operators in the construction value chain, relevant authorities, and stakeholder organisations. It focused on practical solutions in two main areas: selective demolition and fostering an effective market for recycled building materials.

  • The Knowledge Centre for Managing and Recycling Building Waste was founded in 2016 on the initiative of the Danish Construction Association. It is financed by MEF, the Landowners’ Investment Foundation and Realdania, a private association in Denmark which supports projects in architecture and planning. The centre guides building owners, contractors, advisers and municipalities on recycling of C&D waste and on problematic substances in rebuilding, renovation and demolition. In January 2019, it was renamed the Knowledge Centre for Circular Economy in Construction.

  • The advisory board on circular economy drew up the following innovative and ambitious recommendations for the building sector between autumn 2016 and summer 2017:

    • additional information requirements for amounts of reused, recycled and recyclable materials and for undesirable substances in new buildings and large renovation projects from 2020, with a voluntary sustainability classification system for buildings becoming mandatory in 2025

    • a standardised, freely available digital building passport, plus a product database for suppliers with digital factsheets for building products

    • a selective demolition plan to identify materials and the content of hazardous substances, assess materials’ recycling/reuse value and specify demolition methods

    • public building procurement based on total costs and life-cycle calculations.

Several Danish stakeholder networks are active in the area of sustainable construction and management of C&D waste. Initiatives include:

  • a network for construction waste established by the Danish Waste and Resource Network in 2012

  • Sustainable Build, a collaboration between the Danish Industry Foundation and the Danish Architectural Centre to promote sustainable architecture.

The Danish construction industry established the Innovation Network for Sustainable Construction (InnoBYG), co-financed by the Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants, to focus on knowledge sharing, networking and development in the industry in Denmark and internationally.

Realdania launched the “Circular Construction Challenge: Rethink Waste” in October 2018, calling for innovative ways to reuse, recycle and upcycle1 waste for the built environment. The teams of architects and planners that come up with the best ideas for turning waste into a valuable resource through innovative use and design will receive substantial long-term development support.

Source: Country submission.

Among the various knowledge-sharing platforms and networks, the 2016 partnership on sustainable construction and waste prevention was instrumental in identifying practical barriers and common solutions to promote selective demolition and establish effective markets for recycled building materials. Stakeholders called for practical tools such as platforms to help match supply and demand, compilation of standards and guidance documents, demonstration projects focusing on cost, and more strategic use of green public procurement.

This paved the way for the advisory board on circular economy, which made several innovative and ambitious recommendations for the building sector. These included new information requirements for new buildings and large-scale renovation projects (on amounts of reused, recycled and recyclable materials), digital passports for buildings, mandatory selective demolition plans, and public procurement based on total costs during the life cycle of a building (Box 4.6).

Some were picked up in the national circular economy strategy, including a voluntary sustainability classification for buildings. The strategy is less ambitious on other aspects, however, such as mandatory information requirements and selective demolition plans. Instead, it notes that many companies fail to comply with existing requirements to sort C&D waste. Hence enforcement activities are likely to be strengthened.

copy the linklink copied!4.5. Fostering the transition to a circular economy

Denmark has long paved the way for circular economy approaches by promoting sustainable consumption, eco-design, clean production and eco-innovation as well as green purchasing by the public sector. A 2015 study estimated that improving circular economy opportunities in five key areas (food and beverage, construction and real estate, machinery, plastic packaging and hospitals) could lead to an increase in GDP by between 0.8% to 1.4% and help create 7 000 to 13 000 jobs in Denmark (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015[13]).

In September 2018, Denmark adopted the national circular economy strategy with its 15 initiatives. The focus is largely on how companies can drive the circular economy agenda, with measures to assist them (one-stop shop, access to financing, digitalisation). As part of its circular economy efforts, Denmark has also pledged to develop a bio-based economy, one based on using renewable biological resources to produce food, materials and energy. The construction sector has also been identified as a priority.

4.5.1. Promoting sustainable consumption and the sharing economy

Denmark has a long history of mechanisms to promote sustainable consumption through labelling and information campaigns. In 2012, it was estimated that 90% of Danish inhabitants knew about the Nordic Swan eco-label and 35% about the other official third-party verified label, the EU eco-label, and that 8 000 eco-labelled products were available. Not surprisingly, the share of Danes who say they buy eco-friendly products, at 48% in 2014, is second only to Sweden (60%) and trending up (from 39% in 2011) (European Commission, 2014[17]).

As part of the strategy on the sharing economy, citizens are encouraged to use sharing platforms with tax reductions on income from sharing activities. While most projects relate to use of assets such as car and lodging, some may have a more direct impact on waste management. For instance, on the meal-sharing platform, individuals can sell private meals as a P2P business model, and on a business platform called Too Good to Go grocery stores can sell food cheaply instead of throwing it out (B2C).

4.5.2. Promoting markets for recycling and secondary raw materials

The recycling market is characterised by small facilities handling materials such as glass, wood, plastic, construction materials, electronics, metal and textiles. Turnover of recycling activities in 2016 was estimated at DKK 4.8 billion and value added at DKK 0.9 billion. Apart from glass packaging, most recyclable waste is exported for recycling, especially cardboard, plastic, electronics and treated wood.

Municipalities and the private sector alike are considering expanding recycling capacity in Denmark. Many private operators claim, however, that they are holding back investment due to fragmentation of the recyclables market. While private recycling companies have access to commercial waste, municipalities have a monopoly for managing household waste and tend to favour their own facilities. Uncertainty regarding access to recyclable waste may thus slow down development in waste sorting and recycling and lead to suboptimal investment strategies, with some duplication of efforts between municipalities and the private sector. For instance, in Odense on the island of Funen (Fyn), a private company invested EUR 13 million to develop a recycling plant for food waste from supermarkets, separating the plastic for reuse and the bio-based content to produce energy. The Odense city council is planning a public tender to build and operate a similar plant to treat municipal household waste, which private operators say could duplicate and jeopardise the private investment.

In this context, the 2016 Utilities for the Future strategy proposes an in-depth reorganisation of the waste management sector by increasing competition for incineration and giving the private sector a greater role in waste collection and recycling. Discussions over practical implementation have stalled, however, and uncertainty may deter private and public investment for the circular economy. Another aspect under discussion as part of the circular economy strategy is the need to better harmonise collection of recyclable fractions of household waste to promote economies of scale.

4.5.3. Green public procurement

Denmark has developed a wide range of policy instruments to promote green public procurement. They range from regulatory instruments (mandatory purchasing rules) to voluntary initiatives and information campaigns (Box 4.7). A national smart public procurement strategy (Government of Denmark, 2013[28]) was launched in 2013, adapting and incorporating the EU indicative target of making 50% of all public tendering procedures green. In 2012, it was estimated that between 60% and 80% of public tenders included green criteria in Denmark, while their value was between 20% and 40% of the public procurement budget.

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Box 4.7. Denmark has a well-developed strategy on green public procurement
  • Regulatory instruments: Mandatory green public procurement rules are in place for timber, energy-using products and road transport vehicles.

  • Voluntary instruments: The Partnership for Green Public Procurement is a free voluntary initiative that gathers 15 partners, including municipalities, regions and central authorities. Partners commit to adopt a green procurement strategy and common green procurement goals for product categories including building and construction, food, timber, information technology, paper and printing, and cleaning supplies. Purchasing criteria, including recyclability, recycled content and toxic content, have been defined for these categories. Together the partners account for 20% of Danish public procurement.

  • Information and knowledge sharing instruments: The Responsible Purchaser website, for both public and private purchasers, gathers guidance and tools including the European Commission’s green public procurement criteria and an EPA tool on total cost of ownership. An open platform called Forum on Sustainable Procurement disseminates knowledge and news on sustainable procurement and organises thematic working groups to discuss challenges and barriers to sustainable procurement.

The strategy has helped the country develop innovative tools to promote alternative business models for the circular economy and green purchasing, such as the EPA guidance on total cost of ownership. This tool allows public and private procurement agents to take into account the price of both initial purchase and operation. The EPA is expanding the tool to include the cost of waste disposal.

4.5.4. Promoting circular business models and innovation

While regulatory instruments on product design are an EU responsibility (related to product requirements and bans on substances of concern), Denmark has set up a wide range of other policy instruments to promote circular business models.

Information and dissemination of good practices include EPA publication of case studies on resource efficiency in businesses, for instance in the book Stronger without Waste. A web portal for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Circular Company, was launched in September 2017. A one-stop shop on the sharing economy provides advice and guidance to companies and citizens on regulatory aspects. The circular economy strategy also envisages a single point of entry on the circular economy in general.

Subsidies and co-financing programmes are available to assist companies with development of products or circular business models and to provide education and training to SMEs. Circular economy projects can benefit from the main eco-innovation finance programmes, the Eco-Innovation Programme and the Green Investment fund. In addition, some grant and co-financing programmes are dedicated to the circular economy, such as Circular Business Model and Circular Business (Box 4.8).

In addition to information instruments and financing programmes, Denmark is attempting to use economic instruments to favour business models based on product reuse/recycling and discourage single-use products. For example, disposable tableware is subject to taxation based on volume (DKK 19.20 per kg).

Despite the wide range of initiatives, circular business practices are far from common among SMEs. A September 2017 survey of European SMEs on resource efficiency and green markets in the EU between 2015 and 2017 (European Commission, 2018[29]), Denmark reports the largest decline in SMEs declaring waste minimisation and companies recycling or reusing waste internally. In 2017, 49% of Danish SMEs declared that they minimised waste (the EU average is 65%) and 29% claimed to recycle waste internally (compared with the EU average of 42%).

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Box 4.8. Support for circular economy innovation

Denmark has several financing programmes to support the transition to a circular economy in businesses, particularly SMEs.

  • The Danish Eco-Innovation Program is a public subsidy programme supporting development and application of new environmental and resource-efficient solutions in selected priority areas, along with co-operation between companies and knowledge-based institutions. The 2018 budget was about DKK 86 million (EUR 12 million).

  • The Danish Green Investment Fund (Danmarks Grønne Investeringsfond) is an independent state loan fund which co-finances economically viable projects to bridge the gap between traditional bank financing and equity capital (Chapter 3). It is open to private companies, non-profit housing associations and public sector companies and institutions (with budgets separate from municipalities, regions and the state).

  • Circular Business Models (Cirkulære Forretningsmodeller) is a co-financing programme for SMEs to implement circular business models. It is co-ordinated with a partnership of business organisations. The budget for 2018-22 is EUR 15 million.

  • Circular Business (Cirkular Forretning) is a grant programme for business organisations to help them train their SME members on circular economy.

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Recommendations on waste, material management and the circular economy

Reinforce waste prevention as a key priority

  • For household waste, expand pricing based on volume or weight – as in pay-as-you-throw programmes – while facilitating recycling and composting.

  • Accelerate R&D on sorting and recycling technology and innovative reusable and recyclable materials (e.g. biopolymers).

  • Develop policies to minimise output of single-use products, such as plastics.

Foster competition in incineration and better manage excess capacity

  • Improve the cost-effectiveness of incineration by reforming municipal waste management, giving companies flexibility to choose where to incinerate their combustible waste and making public tenders mandatory for municipal waste incineration.

Continue efforts to steer the transition to a circular economy

  • Harmonise criteria for sorting and collecting municipal waste fractions and consider unifying household and business recyclable waste markets to create economies of scale and encourage investment in innovation and large-scale recycling facilities.

  • Foster circular product design by introducing eco-modulation of fees in extended producer responsibility systems, based on recyclability, reparability and reusability.

  • Continue encouraging circular design by SMEs (e.g. through training and access to finance) and supporting companies in establishing take-back programmes and circular business models, e.g. with closed loops for products and materials.

  • Promote voluntary agreements between business and government on circular economy, ensuring that the objectives go beyond what is required by law.

  • Encourage voluntary initiatives and pilot projects to reduce “downcycling” (recycling that produces material of lesser quality and functionality than the original material) in the construction, textile and plastic sectors.

  • Secure financing to develop data for circular economy (e.g. green accounts and material flow information for industry sectors).

References

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[24] Brown, M. (2016), Refuse Derived Fuel: A European Market Heading for Overcapacity, Thomé-Kozmiensky Verlag, Neuruppin, http://www.vivis.de/phocadownload/Download/2016_wm/2016_WM_363-374_Brown.pdf.

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[30] DEA (2018), Kapacitet til affaldsforbraending i Danmark (Waste incineration capacity in Denmark), Danish Energy Agency, Copenhagen.

[27] Deloitte (2015), Construction and Demolition Waste Management in Denmark, Deloitte, London.

[25] DPA System (2018), DPA System, http://www.dpa-system.dk (accessed on 14 November 2018).

[12] Dri, M. et al (2018), Best Environmental Management Practice for the Waste Management Sector: Learning from frontrunners, JRC Science for Policy Report, European Commission, Brussels, http://dx.doi.org/10.2760/50247.

[14] EEA (2016), More from Less: Material Resource Eficiency in Europe 2015 - Overview of policies, instruments and targets in 32 countries, Denmark country profile, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/managing-municipal-solid-waste.

[13] Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2015), Delivering the Circular Economy: A toolkit for Policymakers - Denmark case study, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/resources/apply/toolkit-for-policymakers.

[23] EPA (2018), Affaldsstatistikken 2016 [Waste Statistics 2016], Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

[19] EPA (2017), Evaluering af Ressource Strategi for affalds-Håndtering: “Danmark uden affald“, (Evaluation of resource strategy for waste management: Denmark without waste), Danish Environmental Protection Agency, Odense, https://mst.dk/media/133157/eval-af-ress-strategi_samlet-rapport-ekskl-bilag.pdf.

[29] European Commission (2018), “SMEs, Resource efficiency and green markets”, Flash Eurobarometer, No. 456, http://dx.doi.org/10.2873/93689.

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[5] Government of Denmark (2013), Denmark without waste - Recycle more-incinerate less.

[28] Government of Denmark (2013), Strategi for intelligent offentligt indkøb, https://www.fm.dk/nyheder/pressemeddelelser/2013/10/ny-regeringsstrategi-vi-skal-spare-penge-og-fremme-innovation-og-baeredygtighed-ved-at-koebe-klogere-ind.

[11] Kalundborg Symbiosis (2018), Website, http://www.symbiosis.dk/en (accessed on 14 November 2018).

[8] MEF (2017), The Advisory Board for Circular Economy Recommendations for the Danish Government, Ministry of Environment and Food, Copenhagen, https://en.mfvm.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/MFVM/Miljoe/Cirkulaer_oekonomi/Advisory-Board-for-Circular-Economy-Report-2017-Content_Single_pages_WEB.pdf.

[3] MEF (2016), Material Resource Productivity in Denmark, Ministry of Environment and Food/Environmental Protection Agency, Copenhagen/Odonse.

[7] MEF and MIBFA (2018), Strategi for cirkulaer økonomi Mere vaerdi og bedre miljø gennem design, forbrug og genanvendelse (Circular economy strategy: More value and better environment through design, consumption and recycling), Ministry of Environment and Food/Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Copenhagen, https://mfvm.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/MFVM/Miljoe/Cirkulaer_oekonomi/Strategi_for_cirkulaer_oekonomi.pdf.

[16] NCM (2014), The Use of Economic Instruments in Nordic Environmental Policy 2010–2013, Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, http://www.norden.org.

[10] OECD (2013), “Waste Management Services” in Competition Policy Roundtables, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/daf/competition/Waste-management-services-2013.pdf.

[15] PwC (2018), Afgiftsvejledningen 2018 (2018 tax guide), PwC Denmark, Hellerup, https://www.pwc.dk/da/publikationer/2018/pwc-afgiftsvejledningen-2018.pdf.

[2] SD (2017), Statistical Yearbook 2017, Statistics Denmark, Copenhagen, http://www.dst.dk/yearbook.

[26] The Danish Deposit System: Danskretursytem (2018), , https://www.danskretursystem.dk/en (accessed on 14 November 2018).

[21] Vestforbrænding (2018), Website, https://www.vestfor.dk/engelsk-site (accessed on 14 November 2018).

Note

← 1. Upcycling can be defined as the process of recycling waste into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.

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