Denmark to make manufacturers cover cost of plastic packaging

Denmark’s parliament has agreed a policy to hold manufacturers accountable for the single-use plastic and packaging they produce. 

Denmark to make manufacturers cover cost of plastic packaging
A file photo of plastic waste in Denmark. A new political agreement will move some costs of plastic waste removal from consumers to producers. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The deal, which was agreed by a cross-aisle majority of parties last week, ensures that costs incurred due to use of plastic packaging will in future be paid be producers, rather than consumers.

“The agreement specifically means that it will be the polluter who has to pay for the packaging that ends up in our bins,” environment minister Lea Wermelin told news wire Ritzau. 

“This will give manufacturers a clear financial incentive to design greener. The greener you design, the less you have to spend as a company,” she said. 

The policy will result in a reduction of CO2 emissions of 120,000 tonnes by 2030, the Ministry of the Environment claims. A saving for households on waste removal costs is expected to be 600 kroner per year minus VAT.

Along with the Social Democratic government, the Liberal (Venstre), Socialist People’s Party (SF), Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre),  Red Green Alliance, Conservative, Danish People’s Party and Alternative party all back the parliamentary agreement.

Companies are expected to pay for plastic packaging under collective schemes which will oblige them to manage the waste themselves under a membership system, for which they will pay a weighted fee. Greener packaging will incur lower costs.

Denmark is one of the last countries in the European Union to make producers liable for the plastic waste they produce, and the measure isn’t scheduled to go into effect until January 1st, 2025 — the EU deadline for a bloc-wide plastic initiative. 

Data from EU agency Eurostat meanwhile show Denmark produces the most waste per capita in all the EU.

Lobby group Plastic Change/Rådet for Grøn Omstilling criticised the political deal as lacking ambition in a press statement.

“We had the chance to be a leading green country, as we would like to be, on this issue. But there’s no incentive for companies that want to go first on green conversions,” the organisation’s senior consultant Lone Mikkelsen said.

Wermelin rejected the criticism but welcomed the pressure from environmental groups.

“800 kilograms per Dane each year is too much [waste] and that’s why we must consume more sustainably. That’s what this agreement will help us to do. Our expectation is that businesses will start straight away,” she said.

READ MORE: Danes to sort trash into ten types under new green deal

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Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

Denmark is to follow a rule banning new cage egg farms from next year with a total ban on the farming method by 2035.

Denmark to ban caged egg production by 2035

In a statement, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said that is would ban new cage egg farms from next year.

A full ban will come into place following a 12-year transitional period to “ensure proper conversion of production”, the ministry said.

“We wanted to phase out cage eggs as soon as possible. But we have a genuine responsibility to producers of cage eggs,” the agriculture minister, Rasmus Prehn, told news wire Ritzau.

The 12-year transition will avoid instances of expropriation by giving farmers time to fund and make the switch, according to Prehn.

Supermarket Lidl chose to remove cage eggs from its shelves as long ago as 2015, according to broadcaster DR. Other supermarket chains including Coop and Dansk Supermarked have since followed that decision, meaning most supermarkets in Denmark no longer stock eggs from hens in cages.

The EU banned battery cages in 2012, but hens can still be kept in larger cages, termed “enriched” or “furnished” cages, for the production of eggs, in line with the EU directive that banned battery production.

Production of cage eggs in Denmark has fallen from 61 percent of total egg production in 2010 to 13 percent in 2021, according to DR.

That is an underestimate in comparison to the ministry press release, which states that seven producers of cage eggs in Denmark were responsible for 17 percent of Denmark’s total egg production last year.

While most supermarkets have stopped selling cage eggs, they are still often used by restaurants, catering businesses, food factories and pharmaceutical companies, the ministry states.

“Cage hens live – as the name suggests – their whole lives in small cages with limited space to flap their wings. Denmark is in many ways a forefront country within agriculture, and this must also be the case when it comes to animal welfare,” Prehn said in the press statement.