When I first moved to Copenhagen, I was shocked to find that living in an apartment meant that we virtually didn’t sort any of our household waste.
In Germany, it’s quite typical for apartment buildings to have at least four different waste bins – paper, plastic, biodegradable, and residual waste. My parents even had a big compost in the garden, so all our kitchen scraps went there.
Here, I’ve continuously felt bad because my apartment building has one big trash chute in the hallway, and virtually all of our garbage just goes down there. The only things I separate out are glass, larger paper/ cardboard items, and special waste such as batteries.
But recently, I’ve felt worse and worse about this, and I’ve been researching waste sorting in Copenhagen – partially inspired by Camilla’s post on Copenhagen By Me. I’ve found some very encouraging news, so I thought I’d share a quick guide on how to sort your trash in Copenhagen - some things I simply wasn’t aware of. If you live elsewhere in Denmark, you may want to check with your kommune, as rules might be different.
As a general note, the rules vary depending on whether you live in a house or an apartment complex. People living in houses can order special containers for e.g. paper, metal, cardboard, and biodegradables directly from the kommune. If you, like me, live in an apartment building, you’re of course bound to the rules of that specific ejerforening or andelsforening. Some might have different trash containers in the back yard or basement, whereas others, like our complex, only have one main trash chute. In my residential area of Sluseholmen, we have a special neighborhood “miljøstation”, where all the special containers for plastic, paper, cardboard, etc. are located for the entire area. At first, I thought this was only for larger stuff and things like metal or batteries, but I found out that this is basically the waste sorting station for the six or so building blocks around - it just means I have a longer way to take out my non-generic trash!
So my best tip is to go on a little hunt and find out what containers there are in and around your apartment building. The basic rule is, if your apartment building doesn’t have a special container for it, you take it to the nearest “miljøstation” or “genbrugsstation”. You can find them all on this map.
Here’s what has to be sorted:
Household/ residual garbage
This is basically a catch-all for all things that don’t belong in other categories. That means milk cartons, pizza boxes, anything that has food rests on it, diapers, etc.
Hard and soft plastic, meaning shampoo/ cleaning supply bottles, plastic wraps, cups, and containers, and so on. Everything should be rinsed and as clean as possible.
This means old newspapers and magazines, letters and envelopes, books, and wrapping. Paper and cardboard are separated, and the paper waste is delivered to paper factories to be recycled.
Shoeboxes, shipping boxes, and all other cardboard – excluding pizza boxes – but also e.g. kitchen and toilet paper rolls and smaller boxes from cereal, egg cartons, and the like.
Any type of glass (like bottles, jam jars, etc.) is disposed in glass containers. They should be rinsed first. To find the one closest to you, check out this map and select “Glascontainere” under “Miljø og genbrug”.
Currently, you have to specifically request a bio trash bin for your house or apartment building. Otherwise, you dispose of your kitchen scraps and other biodegradables in your normal household waste. However, beginning at the end of this summer, Copenhagen kommune will deliver biodegradable bins as well as small kitchen waste baskets and special compostable bags to all Copenhageners – which I think is great news! If you read Danish, you can find more information here.
Here are some other types of waste that have to be separated, for example at your nearest recycling station.
- Large items (e.g. old furniture) – if you can’t sell it on DBA or donate it (for example to the Red Cross or in diverse Facebook groups), these have to be delivered to the nearest recycling station.
- Clothes and shoes – the Red Cross has containers all across the city – find the nearest on here. You can also drop off any unwanted clothes at H&M stores.
If you, like me, weren’t really aware of all the different possibilities to sort your trash (the plastic was new to me, for example), please try to find out where the nearest special bins are. Of course it’s easy to just drop everything down that trash chute - out of sight, out of mind - but it’s such a small and easy thing we can all do in our daily lives. If you read Danish, here‘s a heap of information for your leisurely reading. You can find the slightly condensed, English version here.
Did I forget anything? Or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!