Danish word of the day: Pant

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Danish word of the day: Pant

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

This Danish false friend means something quite different from the English but is a crucial word for living in Denmark.


What is pant? 

Pant has nothing to do with trousers or underpants, or being out of breath. It refers to money paid as security for something. In English it could be translated as "refundable deposit" or "security".

For example, if you buy property in Denmark, a pantebrev is the document which means a mortgage has been taken out against it (this should be resolved on the day the property changes hands). You can also pay money in pant as security against other kinds of debts.

But in everyday life, the more common usage is the pant fee you pay when you buy recyclable bottles and cans.

This is listed as a separate amount on your receipt, so a drink in a plastic bottle or can may cost you 20 kroner and anything between extra 1 and 3 kroner extra in pant, depending on the type of bottle or can.

You get the pant back by recycling the bottles at flaskeautomater (bottle and can recycling stations) which can be found in almost all Danish supermarkets. The money is paid out by the machine in the form of a receipt, which you can hand in at the checkout for cash or have it deducted from the cost of your food shopping.

READ ALSO: ‘Pant’: Denmark recycles more cans and bottles than ever before


Why do I need to know pant?

In Denmark, the pant system was introduced for glass bottles way back in 1942, with the system extended to cans and plastic bottles in 2002 and for juice cartons in 2019.

Dansk Retursystem, the company operating the pantsystem, says that for every 100 bottles and cans sold with the ‘pant’ mark on it, 92 were returned in Denmark in 2022.

A return percentage of 92 percent is one of the highest of the world for recycling of drinks packaging, and gives an idea of how established pant is in everyday life in the country.

The verb at pante means to hand something in and get money in return, but usually it refers simply to the act of recycling bottles. You can also use pant to talk about other similar recycling schemes, for example at music festivals which might charge a pant fee for their plastic or paper cups, which is returned if you bring them for recycling.


Vi har utrolige mange flasker og dåser efter festen i går. Jeg går ned i supermarkedet og panter det hele.

We’ve got loads of bottles and cans after the party yesterday. I’m going to the supermarket to cash them in.

Jeg fik 75 kroner tilbage i pant, så det var relativt billigt at handle.

I got 75 kroner from returning bottles and cans, so the food shopping was relatively cheap.


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