There is a lot of waste in this world. Waste that, at least partially, could be recycled. Some countries have made climate change and the general liveability of our planet one of their key concerns and hence steered their populations to be more mindful when discarding waste. In our new series “Recycling Around the World”, we’re looking to shed some light on these countries and their recycling history, especially concerning cans. The first country up is small by number of inhabitants but still a recycling giant: Denmark!

When thinking of Denmark what first comes to mind for me personally is that the small kingdom has, as its Scandinavian neighbours, been named among the happiest countries in the world for several years in a row.

Why is that, though? It might be that the generally relaxed Danish “hygge” lifestyle plays a big part in it. Or it’s due to the fact that Denmark is among the world’s best recyclers making for a cleaner, more sustainable and thus maybe a happier life.

When It Comes to Recycling, Denmark Holds the Pole Position

In fact, Denmark is a true pioneer when it comes to recycling. In 1978, the Scandinavians were the first country in the world to implement recycling laws, according to which, at least 50 per cent of all paper and beverage packaging had to be recycled.

Until said laws started to really affect garbage disposal, it took a bit of a while. As in most countries, landfilling was the most common practice in Denmark as well. But when the Copenhagen area saw its landfills overfilled, waste collectors started to take matters into their own hands. In 1985, the garbage truck drivers went ahead and dumped the collected waste in front of the Danish Parliament – an incident which finally led to stricter and more efficiently observed laws.

Returning Beverage Cans in Denmark Will Earn You Hard Cash

In the time since, much has changed in Danish recycling. As in a couple of other European countries, Denmark is known for having established bottle and can collection machines, the so-called “Flaskeautomat”. Nearly 3000 stores throughout Denmark have implemented these reverse vending machines. Cans and bottles featuring the “Pant” label can be put in the opening of the machine where they are scanned and automatically sorted.

And in case helping the environment wasn’t enough already, the “Flaskeautomat” gives out cash in return. Although it has to be mentioned that this is no reward but merely a deposit which was previously added on the bill when purchasing the containers. This way, 90 per cent of all bottles and cans are returned to the recycling system.

The deposit system for cans is relatively new to Denmark, as beverage cans were prohibited in the kingdom from 1982 until 2002 due to the fact that people were used to just tossing the empty containers into landfill garbage. That certainly played its part in the aforementioned landfill problem of the early 1980s. Fortunately, implementing this system encouraged the Danes to recycle more.

Considering how long cans have been around, it’s quite astonishing that sorting them correctly is such a recent issue. Fortunately, measures have been taken limit wasting materials that could be reused but we still have a long way to go.

Does your country have a system in place similar to the Danish? Tell us in the comments and we might feature your answer in our upcoming episode of “Recycling Around the World”.

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