Photo: Marie Kampmann Eriksen

Deposits on beverage packaging best for the environment

Wednesday 27 Jun 18


Anders Damgaard
Senior Researcher
DTU Environment
+45 45 25 16 12
A new analysis from DTU shows that the deposit and return system is the most eco-friendly way of disposing of packaging from beverages not covered by the current deposit system.

DTU Environment has analysed the disposal of packaging from beverages not covered by the current deposit system, e.g., packaging from juice, lemonade, chocolate milk, etc. The analysis has focused on packaging life cycle—from when the consumer has emptied a bottle or a can and until it is disposed of or recycled.

The analysis includes packaging made of different plastic materials, glass, metal, and composites. Examples of the latter are juice or cocoa milk cartons, which contain both cardboard, aluminium, and plastic film. The environmental impact of different packaging types has been examined on 14 different parameters, of which the most important relate to the impact on the climate, e.g., carbon emissions.

The analysis has also assessed three different disposal options: 1) The deposit and recycling system with a deposit on the packaging; 2) separate collection for recycling, where citizens sort their waste according to material type and dispose of it in large waste containers placed in the area, take it to recycling stations or have it collected by garbage trucks; and 3) incineration of the packaging together with other residual waste.

“Based on the analysis results, the recommendations are clear. As we in Denmark already have a deposit and return system for packaging from beer and soft drinks, this is generally the most eco-friendly way of disposing of beverage packaging. It helps to ensure that a larger share of the packaging is returned—90 per cent—and a high recycling quality. In comparison, separate collection has a collection rate of about 50-70 per cent for cans and glass,” says Senior Researcher Anders Damgaard.

It is difficult to separate packaging made of composite materials and achieve a high recycling quality, so the environmental benefits of collecting these are lower than for packaging made of glass, plastic, and aluminium. The analysis does, however, show that even though the benefit is smaller, collecting materials via the deposit and return system still benefits the environment.

The analysis was conducted from November 2017 to June 2018 for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark.

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