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New Report: Denmark Is Far Behind in The Circular Transition

29. Aug 2023

Denmark is only four percent circular. Only a tiny part of the resources we consume have been used before. Thus, Denmark is worse at circular economy than several other European countries, according to a new report. The development calls for action, believes DDC along a broad alliance of actors


For the first time, an overall status of Danish circularity, Denmark’s resource consumption, and the effects of the consumption in the form of CO2 emissions has been made. The conclusions are presented in the Circularity Gap Report (download below), which the Dutch impact organization Circle Economy is behind.

The Danish result of four percent shows the ratio between our consumption of materials, as measured per capita, is among the highest in the world, and the amount of recycled materials in society. On a global level, the figure is 7.2 percent in 2023, which has unfortunately been getting lower and lower in recent years.

If Denmark is to be a leading country in the sustainable transition, we must become better at using our resources sustainably and make products last longer, believes a broad alliance of actors.

“Although the report’s conclusions are not exactly uplifting, we should be happy that we now have a clear picture of where the shoe is pressing and thus also a good starting point for setting the bar higher and targeting efforts. Circular production is for many – especially smaller companies – a difficult figure to get their hands on, and therefore, this report must be used actively to inform decision-makers and companies on reducing waste volumes and developing circular business models and solutions,” says Thomas Hoffman Bang, CEO of the Danish Industry Foundation.

Circularity beyond borders

In Denmark, we consume the equivalent of almost 24.5 tonnes of materials per capita each year. That is well above the EU average of 17.8 tonnes per capita yearly. And it is more than three times higher than the estimated sustainable consumption level of eight tons per capita a year, which we should ideally hit. 

Our consumption of resources not only produces large amounts of waste in Denmark, but it also has consequences far beyond the Danish borders. When materials are extracted and processed, e.g., large amounts of CO2 are emitted. We must also take responsibility for those emissions through a circular transition in Denmark.

“It is fundamental that we all start working with scope 3 emissions – the emissions that happen throughout a company’s value chain and most often transcend borders. We do that in our eight-year project, Decoupling 2030, with an ambitious partner group. At DDC, we often meet companies willing to make a circular change but struggling with implementation and scaling. A report like this and projects like Decoupling 2030 can change that,” says Julie Hjort, Director of Sustainable Transition at DDC – Danish Design Center.

Design methods key to the circular transition

Our high resource consumption mainly pushes Denmark’s circularity score downwards. We must, therefore, ensure more innovative use of the earth’s resources by reusing, recycling, and extending the life of products through entirely new business and consumption models. 

Around 80 percent of a product’s environmental footprint is determined in the design phase. So, working with the circular transition, we at DDC use design methods and thinking to initiate and implement circular change in our society.

A recent study we conducted in collaboration with The Confederation of Danish Industry, Design Delivers Green, shows that a majority of Danish companies say that they have taken steps to become more circular but need more design-related competencies to move forward.

“Many companies articulate a need for core design competencies like material understanding, user needs, and experience in developing circular business models. Our role in this Circularity Gap Report partnership is to communicate the report’s results to the industry and identify tangible sector-related actions to implement circular strategies,” explains Julie Hjort.

We’ll run the sector-targeted workshops to co-develop these actions in the fall of 2023.

The report is created on the initiative of a broad alliance of Danish actors consisting of the Danish Industry Foundation, DI – Danish Industry, IDA – The Danish Society of Engineers, DTU-Sustain, Technological Institute, DDC – Danish Design Center, and Lifestyle & Design Cluster. Circle Economy is a Dutch consulting company behind similar reports in other countries.

About the Circularity Gap Report

In January 2018, the first Circularity Gap Report was published during the World Annual Forum in Davos. This first report established that our world is only 9.1 percent circular, leaving a massive circularity gap. It also provided a framework and fact base to measure and monitor progress in bridging the global circularity gap.

Read more about the report and the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative here.

Julie Hjort

Director of Sustainable Transition

Phone +45 2575 8933
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