Refillable systems could prevent 390,000 coffee cups from entering the sea in Denmark every year
Press Release Date: June 24, 2021
Oceana estimates that around 390,000 single-use coffee cups discarded in Denmark end up in the marine environment annually
Danes use 300 million plastic cups and 150 million food containers each year
A new study by Oceana shows that refillable systems and reusable options could take Denmark out of its disposable plastic culture. Specifically, the organisation calculates that around 390,000 discarded single-use coffee cups end up in the sea every year and recommends setting a political goal of completely phasing out their use, with an intermediate target of having 50% of all cups on the market be refillable by 2026 and increasing to 80% by 2030.
“This is the first time that we have an estimate of the extent of single-use plastics in Denmark’s marine environment. The results show that in Denmark we also face challenges when it comes to protecting marine life from plastic pollution and that we excessively rely on disposable plastics. We need policies that do not only increase separate waste collection and recycling but address the root cause of the problem and support the replacement of disposable packaging with refillable and reusable options” said Naja Andersen, senior policy advisor for Oceana in Europe.
Most single-use cups are made of plastic or plastic-lined cardboard to make them waterproof. In fact, Oceana underscores that when these cups reach the ocean, they have a devastating effect on marine ecosystems. Denmark’s long coastline and the fact that nowhere in the country is more than 50 km from the sea means that, despite its efficient waste management system, the risk that plastic and other waste from the Danish countryside or urban environments end up in the sea is high.
Danes use 300 million plastic cups and 150 food containers a year. To tackle that, Oceana recommends five measures to promote reusable solutions and the phasing out of throw away products:
- Prohibit single-use tableware for food and beverages consumed on-site in bars and restaurants. This would support the phase-out of single-use tableware and avoid replacing disposable plastic with single-use products made of other materials that may also be harmful, such as single-use ‘bio-plastic’ items.
- Make reusable options mandatory at takeaway venues. Make it mandatory for all venues selling takeaway food and beverages to give consumers a reusable packaging option for takeaway food or beverages.
- Make reusable tableware mandatory at major events, such as festivals and sports events.
- Introduce taxes on disposable takeaway packaging. Introduce a tax on takeaway coffee cups and food containers that can be avoided if the consumer brings his/her own container or uses a refillable cup or container.
- Set up deposit return systems. Support the development and establishment of new reuse and refill systems – such as large-scale deposit systems – for coffee cups and other takeaway containers.
A survey commissioned by Oceana, earlier this year, shows that the Danish population is deeply concerned about the environmental problems posed by plastic. According to its results, nine out of 10 Danes agree that single-use plastic should be phased out as much as possible. The survey also shows that Danes are predominantly positive towards measures that would promote changing from single-use coffee cups and other disposable packaging to reusable alternatives. Such results indicate that if measures were taken, they would have public support.
As of the 3rd of July this year, items such as polystyrene cups will be banned in the European Union in the context of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. However, more is needed to tackle the marine pollution crisis. Denmark should pave the way to achieve more ambitious targets based on refillables and reusables.
 This is based on the estimation that 6% of all cups used are littered and 0,3 % of all cups used eventually enter the marine environment.
 Danish Environmental Protection Agency. 2020. Market analysis and charting of disposable plastic products and their alternatives. Odense. 166 pp. Available at: https://www2.mst.dk/Udgiv/publikationer/2020/06/978-87-7038-199-4.pdf