Waste-to-Energy in Denmark

Owing to visionary environmental and energy policies combined with coherent public planning, Denmark has developed the most efficient waste management system in Europe.

Denmark was the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on landfilling of waste suitable for incineration. This has proven to be a major benefit to the Danish economy and the environment.

In Denmark, the municipalities are responsible for the management of all waste. They have the responsibility and decision-making authority for the collection and treatment of household waste, and they control the flow of commercial and industrial waste to assigned treatment and disposal facilities. In order to recover the resources of the waste, the first priority is to reuse or recycle it. The residual waste is either incinerated at waste-to-energy facilities or, as the last resort, landfilled. A ground-breaking total of 93% is recycled or incinerated at waste-to-energy plants.

At the end of 2005, Denmark had 29 waste-to-energy facilities that treated a total of 3.5 million tonnes of waste, which corresponds to roughly 26 percent of the total waste generated in Denmark. Environmentally friendly electricity and district heating are produced from this waste, corresponding to the energy consumption of approximately 400,000 households. The existing legislation on environmental protection, heat and electricity supply ensures favorable framework conditions for waste incineration in Denmark. This has made Denmark the country in Europe that incinerates the greatest amount of waste per capita—under very strict environmental regulations. 

Source: RenoSam & Rambøll

The majority of the facilities are owned by municipalities or inter-municipal companies. The municipal cooperation secures the establishment of the necessary incineration capacity. Moreover, it ensures that the waste is managed according to the principles of proximity and self-sufficiency. The waste-to-energy facilities are operated by nonprofit companies, based on a cost coverage principle. This is why households, commerce and industry can have their waste treated in a safe and environmentally friendly manner at low cost. The gate fee at waste-to-energy facilities in Denmark is one of the lowest in Europe. The low gate fee is attributable to the efficiently operated facilities on the one hand and to the extensive energy recovery on the other.

The prominence of waste-to-energy differs widely from country to country in Europe.

Apart from Denmark, waste-to-energy is most widespread in Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. In these countries local governments play a significant role in the organization of the waste sector. In countries like the UK, where waste is primarily managed by private companies, the greater proportion of the waste is still landfilled and waste-to-energy is less widespread and at relatively high cost. Incineration of waste in Denmark is extremely efficient, and it is therefore highly unlikely that a reorganization would lead to improvements and lower gate fees.

To learn more about Danish CleanTech expertise at Retech 2010, visit the Invest in Denmark booth #827. www.investindk.com