Denmark's plan for going circular

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In September 2016 the government launched a Utilities Strategy promoting, among others, better utilisation of waste. Thus, the Utilities Strategy constitutes a key contribution to creating a more circular economy. The Strategy for Circular Economy, therefore, must be seen in close correlation with – and as a follow-up to – the Utilities Strategy (…) the government has decided to expose waste incineration and management of recyclable waste to competition (…) local authorities must put out for tender their household waste suitable for incineration (…) this way all parties have equal access to the waste (…) the in its Utilities Strategy the government has proposed a full competition exposure for the treatment of recyclable waste streams.

In regard to CE there are six areas of effort: 1. Strengthen enterprises as a driving force for circular transition/ 2. Support CE through data and digitization/ 3. Promote CE through design/ 4. Change consumption patterns through CE/ 5. Create a proper functioning market for waste and recycled raw materials/ 6. Get more value out of buildings and biomass

Category 3. Promote CE through design in particular, entails 2 of the 16 initiatives taken: a. incorporating circular economy into product policy and b. boosting Danish participation in European work on circular standards:

The design of products is crucial for the transition to a circular economy, since choices in the design phase of, e.g., materials and chemicals are decisive for the lifetime of the product, and whether components and materials can be used again with a high value (…) The eco-labels (Nordic Swan & EU flower) thereby make it easier for consumers, enterprises, and public authorities to purchase in a circular manner thereby contributing to a market-driven transition to a more circular economy.

An enhanced Danish effort in this standardisation work will make it possible to communicate knowledge from the European working groups on standards for circular economy to Danish enterprises who may be interested in having influence on the standardisation work.

Category 6 is also related to the construction industry through initiatives 13 & 14:

The building sector is challenged by a relatively high consumption of new raw materials for the production of construction materials and contents of substances of concern in buildings. The limited traceability of construction materials deteriorates the opportunities for recycling and reuse of high value. The embedded energy for new buildings can constitute up to 50 percent of the energy consumption over the entire life of the building. Today, no requirements are made for including construction materials’ so-called “embedded energy” – i.e. the sum of all energy used for production and waste management – in buildings’ energy calculation. If at some point of time an international building passport is developed, it will give better opportunities for the recycling of construction materials and a reduction of costs for maintenance and renovation.

Already today enterprises have an obligation to source-separate their waste so it can be recycled. But far from all enterprises comply with the rules. In fast and relatively unplanned demolitions construction materials are often mixed, which makes it difficult to separate the valuable parts of the waste. It also increases the risk that substances of concern are recycled or recovered instead of being managed safely in a landfill. Where existing rules focus on recycling, so-called “selective demolition” leads to a higher focus on the reuse of construction materials.

The Danish Government: Strategy for Circular Economy: More Value and Better Environment through Design, Consumption and Recycling, September 2018. Full Report available here

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