Danes returning empty bottle at one of the country's deposit stations, Source: Dansk Retursystem

Danish deposit-return system for bottles and cans is now 100% circular

Danish deposit-return system for bottles and cans is now 100% circular

The solution which has been progressing to that end for the past several years proves that there can be a circular business model

EU directives require that member states achieve a 90% collection rate of plastic bottles by 2029. Denmark, however, has just announced that it has already achieved 100% circularity in the collection and recycling of bottles and cans…and it’s only 2023! But how?

The system is run by a privately owned, non-profit organisation known as the Dansk Retursystem (the Danish deposit and return system). The system has reached zero expenses, meaning that producers do not have to pay anything for Dansk Retursystem to take care of their beverage packaging.

That also means that they don’t have to invest in new packaging, and can thus lower their beverage prices to the end consumers. It’s a win-win situation for all, including the environment.

Business has warmed up to recycled materials

The packaging return system in Denmark has long traditions, going back over a century. However, it is also the willingness of local people and businesses to adapt and embrace change that has fostered positive results.

The cost of operating the Danish return and deposit system has been reduced since 2017. Five years ago, producers had to pay an average of 0,17 DKK per package on the market that Dansk Retursystem had to recycle. Last year, the cost was 0,03 DKK.

One of the major factors of reaching zero expenses this year is primarily due to the favourable prices for recyclable materials, which are in great demand in the market at the moment,” said Heidi Schütt Larsen, Director of Circular Economy at the non-profit, as quoted by State of Green.

Reaching zero expenses means that the costs of collecting, sorting and preparing the materials for recycling are now matched by the deposit system’s income - including the price that Dansk Retursystem receives for the recyclable materials.

Besides this, it is also due to ongoing adjustments to the system and reducing prices on packaging best suited for recycling.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU