Sorting Food Waste to become Mandatory in Copenhagen

By Gacia Trtrian

Copenhagen residents are expected to receive new containers for bio-waste, after the majority of the Technical and Environmental Committee at City Hall agreed to future mandatory food waste recycling earlier this month.


         Mixed trash being taken away in Copenhagen

In 2014, the Committee announced that recycling and sorting waste should never be mandatory, even if it means not achieving waste management goals.

This year, a study by the European Commission (EC) stated that mandatory separate collection systems for bio-waste should be established in all EU member states. And so the committee had a sudden change of mind.

The committee now sees these measures necessary in order to achieve the municipality’s goal of becoming a zero waste city in 2050.


To cut down the waste produced by 20% by 2018, households have to recycle 45% of the rubbish they produce.

The committee’s new decision to obligate sorting food waste puts the Resource and Waste Management Plan 2018 in action. The plan views waste as a resource instead of something to dispose of, and mainly aims at maximizing waste utilization efficiency. This is hoped to achieve by using the separated waste to produce fertilizers and biogas. It will be fully implemented in 2018.

The plan focuses a lot on Biodegradable waste, because it makes up around 40% of the domestic waste that is burned. The collection efficiency of bio waste is currently 0% but by 2018, the waste management plan aims to raise it to 33%.

According to the resource and waste management plan issued by the Technical and Environmental Administration City Development:

“In Copenhagen alone around 21,000 tonnes of food is discarded from the households every year. This corresponds to around 1.5 kilograms per household per week. in addition, the quantities of edible food products discarded in shops and catering kitchens amount to some 10,000 tonnes just in Copenhagen.”

A waste treatment plant, called Copenhill or Amager Bakke, is already under construction and will be put to good use in 2017, converting waste to energy. The separated bio waste will be taken to the plant to generate electricity, while a part of the waste will also be treated to be used for farming. This assures the constant circulation of phosphorus in the environment, which is needed for fertilization of plants.

The committee has also decided that only 10% of Copenhageners will be exempted from the mandatory plan, because of the lack of space in their backyard areas. Meaning that 90% of all residents will have to comply.

And even though this means more effort from the residents, most people in Copenhagen are happy with the decision taken at the City Hall.

“I’m all for recycling, but I don’t think it should be mandatory. Simply because there is no way to enforce it.” Says Theis Hovring, a resident in Copenhagen, “I think the right thing to do is to facilitate the process of recycling.”

Emil Bellamy, another pro-recycling Copenhagener believes that something as simple as separating trash can make a huge difference if ‘everybody’ does it. “It bothers me that people realize the importance of managing resources. I do it myself on a personal level. I buy secondhand clothes and I always recycle. If we could just do it on a larger scale.”

Till now, Copenhagen has a voluntary food waste recycling system, and it does not cover all areas in the larger Copenhagen areas, but a new collection plan is in order. There will be collecting trucks that run on biogas assigned to all areas and they will transfer a part of the waste to the plant.