Danes are Europe’s filthiest litterbugs: EU

The Danes are the filthiest waste-creators in the EU, with each on average throwing away a disgusting 759kg of rubbish every year, new figures have revealed.

Danes are Europe's filthiest litterbugs: EU
Danes throw away a lot of waste, but only one percent is landfilled. Photo: Bruening Group
According to Eurostat, the Danes in 2014 binned a fifth more rubbish than Cyprus, the next most wasteful country, and a shocking three and a half times as much as Romania, the EU’s least wasteful nation. 
Denmark has seen the fastest growth in the amount of rubbish it throws away of any other major European country, throwing away 46 percent more than it did in 1995, with only Malta seeing greater increases. 
This is in stark contrast to its non-EU neighbour Norway, where the amount per capita thrown away fell 32 percent over the same period, Germany, where it fell one percent, and Sweden where it only grew 13 percent. 
Non-EU Switzerland was the only country to rival Denmark, with each citizen throwing away an average of 730kg.  
Germany was the next, throwing away 618 kg per person, followed by Luxembourg with 616 kg.  
Norway and Sweden — comparable to Denmark on most economic and social factors, threw away just 423kg and 438kg respectively. 

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‘More recycling, less rubbish’: minister wants Denmark to cut down on trash

Households in Denmark should ready themselves to sort and recycle their waste more than they do today.

'More recycling, less rubbish': minister wants Denmark to cut down on trash
A Danish handout outlining sorting of household waste. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

New Minister for the Environment Lea Wermelin says that Denmark can improve its waste management relative to current practices in the country.

“The clear message to all Danes is that we are going to intensify our green ambitions regarding trash,” Wermelin said.

The average household in Denmark produced 600 kilograms of waste in 2016.

Almost half of that rubbish – 48 percent – was sorted for recycling.

But that leaves plenty of room for improvement, according to Wermelin.

“Our record compares poorly to the rest of Europe – we are the ones with the worst waste figures.

“That’s why it’s important that we do something to reduce waste volume and increase recycling. This is an area I plan to focus on,” she said.

One area in which changes can be expected is the sorting of rubbish in different municipalities. Currently, the extent to which different types of waste are sorted and collected varies between municipalities.

An example of this is bio waste, which is collected in specially-provided green bags and bins in Copenhagen Municipality, but other areas do not provide similar facilities.

Textiles, plastic and electronics were named by Wermellin as areas in which recycling can be increased.

“We need more sensible sorting of waste and we need to get Danes behind the project. I think they will be (behind it),” she said.

Municipal waste management firms were positive regarding new environmental initiatives on rubbish collection.

Mads Jakobsen, a city councillor in the Struer municipality in western Jutland, is also chair of the Dansk Affaldsforening association, which represents waste management companies.

“We are well underway with development of a more unified collection system across municipalities. You just need to be aware there is a difference between living in an apartment, detached housing or a holiday home,” Jakobsen said.

“That’s why individual considerations are necessary in the various municipalities,” he added.

Dansk Affaldsforening is currently in discussion with the food industry regarding potential markings on packaging which will aid correct separation of waste.

“That’s the next step and will make it much easier to sort (waste),” Jakbosen said.

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