Denmark’s Dansk Retursystem ensures that plastic bottles are recycled back into plastic bottles avoiding “downcycling” of plastic bottles into non-food grade applications. The Danish system boasts one of the highest return recycling rates in Europe, at 92%.

Denmark has had a deposit return system in place (called Dansk Retursystem) for bottle packaging for a long time, boasting one of the highest return rates in Europe, reaching 92% in 2021. The Danish deposit and return system is based on the principle of a closed resource cycle. Beverage bottles (and cans) can be returned to specific locations such as reverse vending machines in supermarkets or other deposit return banks located in public spaces, so that they are source-seperated for recycling immediately and can be recycled into another bottle (or can). Source seperation in this system, rather than co-mingled systems most often seen in North American recycling programs, means that food grade plastic can be recycled back into food grade plastic once again as it has not been contaminated with non-food grade plastics.

In Denmark, there are strict health regulations regarding this process and the recycling of bottles and cans. Danish health regulations allow plastic from bottles to be recycled into plastic for bottles once again if it has not been mixed with other plastics. Similarly, the same rules apply for aluminium cans and glass. Materials from the deposit return system in Denmark go exclusively to facilities that are approved to manufacture food packaging. These facilities are inspected regularly to ensure health regulations are met.

The Dansk Retursystem has also established new Pantstations (deposit return banks), at which consumers can deliver up to 90 bottles and cans at a time. Another initiative of the Dansk Retursystem is deposit return bins, which are attached to public waste bins in the City of Copenhagen. Consumers can leave their empty bottles and cans in these bins while out in public spaces, allowing other people to collect and return the bottles and cans should they wish to do so, and they can collect the deposits.

Dansk Retursystem is also among the participants in HolyGrail2.0, which is an international collaboration with the European Brand Association, AIM towards a new cutting-edge technology for sorting packaging waste.


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