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Deposit system law - Denmark

Denmark has had a deposit/refund system for decades, but initially it was only applicable to refillable beverage containers. Many shops and supermarkets have had Reverse Vending Machines for years to automate the reverse vending process. For environmental reasons, the use of non-refillable beverage containers was very limited and the use of aluminium cans was completely banned in the latter half of the last century. However, this legislation violated EU law and Denmark was forced to adapt to EU legislation. To make it easier “to swallow the pill”, the Danish government decided to introduce, at the same time, a deposit/return system for all non-refillable beverage containers marketed and sold in Denmark.

The Danish Bottle Bill was passed by Parliament in 2000 and has been amended as late as 2007. However, the amendments have not changed the main contents of the Bottle Bill. The objective of the Bottle Bill was to reach a recycling rate of at least 95% for non-refillable beverage containers by 1 January 2008. 

Dansk Retursystem A/S was established on the initiative of the Ministry of the Environment to implement, administer and operate the deposit/refund system in Denmark.  

When a producer or importer sells beverages to retailers in Denmark, he charges not only the price of the beverages but also the deposit related to the beverage containers. Based on the producers’ and importers’ own accounts, the total deposit collected by the producers and importers is paid to Dansk Retursystem A/S once a month. When the used beverage containers have been returned to the shops and supermarkets, either through reverse vending machines or manually, they are transported to either of the two counting centres of Dansk Retursystem A/S, where they are registered, counted and sorted. On the basis of this registration, Dansk Retursystem A/S pays the refund back to the shops and supermarkets. 

Deposit related to used beverage containers that are not returned by consumers (and consequently not recycled) is kept by Dansk Retursystem A/S and spent partly on improving the efficiency of the reverse vending process at the retailers and partly on funding a number of social and environmental programmes. All producers, bottlers and importers of beverage containers are obliged to sign up with Dansk Retursystem A/S to legally distribute their products in Denmark. 

Dansk Retursystem A/S is financed in the following way: 

  • Signing-up fees
  • Logistics fees
  • Collection fees

Dansk Retursystem A/S pays all shops and supermarkets a fee to cover the costs of handling both empty refillable and non-refillable beverage containers. The shops and supermarkets, on the other hand, pay an administration fee to Dansk Retursystem A/S to cover the costs managing a national database of all the shops and supermarkets. 

In addition to these fees, all producers, bottlers and importers pay a so-called “packaging fee”, which is a kind of environmental tax. This tax is payable for each and every beverage container marketed. 

All the above fees (except the packaging fee) are regulated by Dansk Retursystem A/S yearly but must be approved by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Dansk Retursystem A/S has two counting centres in Denmark with a total of 28 high-speed counting and sorting machines. 

In 2006 (two years before the initial expiry date of the status of Dansk Retursystem A/S as a single operator of the deposit/refund system in Denmark), the Ministry of the Environment asked the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the operation and efficiency of the programme launched in 2002. The Agency submitted its report in December 2006. 

The general conclusion of the report was that the system worked satisfactorily from the point of view of the consumers and retailers as well as the producers and importers. At the beginning of 2002, small importers of foreign beer products claimed that the system was too expensive and was acting as an import barrier limiting the range of beer products that could be marketed in Denmark. Reality has proved quite different. From 2002 until 2006 the following development has been documented:

  • The amount of imported beer increased from 4 million litres to 13 million litres.
  • The number of producers and importers increased from 269 to 343.
  • The total number of products (different EAN numbers) increased from 2050 to 4918.

However, the original objectives of reaching a return and recycling rate of not less than 95% in late 2005 were not met. At the end of 2005, the figure was 84%. According to the revised objectives the original goal should be met in 2008 (no revised figures available). 

In summary, the report concluded that the Danish deposit/refund system works fairly efficiently and the environmental objectives have been met fairly well within the estimated costs. An increasing number of products are currently being included in the deposit/refund system to ensure that more and more packaging material is removed from general household waste and recycled into new products. 

Useful links:

Dansk Retursystem A/S

The Ministry of the Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency 
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