Danish breweries’ climate ambition: CO2-neutrality in 2030

The Danish brewing and soft drinks industries have, through the Danish Brewers’ Association, made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030. In this article, the association’s Head of Communication, Louis Honoré, details the plan, the prerequisites and the challenges involved in reaching this ambitious goal. 

Louis Honoré

By Louis Honoré, Head of Communications, Danish Brewers’ Association (lih@bryggeriforeningen.dk)


The Danish breweries have adopted a climate plan with the ambition that their production in 2030 will be 100% CO2-neutral. Additionally, they will exclusively use 100% circular bottles and cans by 2030.

For many years, the breweries in Denmark have reduced their consumption of energy, raw materials and water, and their present business model is already quite circular, as almost no raw materials are wasted during the production process.

In addition, Danish breweries operate one of the world’s most efficient deposit return systems in collaboration with the retail sector. The system ensures that 90% of all deposit bottles and cans are collected and recycled.

“Our industry is ready to gear up to become completely CO2-neutral and to use only 100% circular packaging. But achieving our goals requires support from politicians, authorities and other industries”, says Niels Hald, Secretary General of Danish Brewer’s Association.

He points out three areas which particularly need external backing.

More green energy in the production

A precondition for CO2-neutral production of beer is that the energy sector supplies CO2-neutral power to the breweries, which are ready to electrify their processes further through subsidy schemes.

It is also important that spent grains are allowed as biofuel in breweries after vitamins and proteins have been extracted.

Also, municipalities should be less reluctant to approve breweries’ own wastewater treatment plants and biogas plants.


Lower climate footprint from transportation

The Danish breweries would very much like to invest more money in green transition of their distribution. For example, this could be done by moving transportation of beer from lorries to trains and also by replacing fossil fuels with biogas and natural gas in the lorries which, after all, will still be used for distribution of beer.

However, such investments are very costly and consequently require a high level of predictability of the related framework conditions (laws, rules and regulations). For instance, politicians in Denmark and Europe should prioritize transportation of goods on railways in the coming years, and they should secure economic incentives for transportation of goods on lorries using alternative green fuels.


The deposit return system must be future-proofed

Today, Danish breweries provide the Danish deposit return system with soft drink and mineral water plastic bottles which are easily recycled. However, the breweries are not allowed to get their bottles back to use them for the production of new plastic bottles. Instead, other industries can buy the supply of plastic and use it for their own purposes. 

It is the wish of Danish Brewers’ Association that Danish politicians and authorities allow breweries to get access to their own packaging so that they can benefit from so-called closed loop recycling.

Both Danish and EU politicians should also push for the EU Commission to allow breweries to call plastic “recycled” when the used and collected plastic bottles are cleaned through a new technique called depolymerization. This technique decomposes the plastic into its basic building bricks, so to speak, cleans them and reconstructs them in order to make them become plastic again. The EU Commission has not approved a single one of the 160 applications about recycling processes which it has received since 2008. Also, the Danish Brewers’ Association suggests that the EU should work to secure a high supply of recycled plastic of high quality.


At full speed already

However, the Danish brewing industry does not just fold its arms and await help from the outside.

“We are already at full speed doing our part to reach a number of tangible goals which will provide our consumers with beer produced CO2-neutrally and served in circular packaging”, says Niels Hald.


Danish Brewers’ Association’s 2030 climate goals:

• Plastic bottles (PET) are made from 100% recycled plastic (intermediate goal 2025: 50%).

• Return percentage for bottles and cans is 99% (intermediate goal 2025: 93%).

• 93% of bottles and cans are part of closed loop recycling and used for new beverage packaging.

• The Danish deposit return system is CO2-neutral.

• All secondary packaging is made from 100% recycled material (intermediate goal 2025: 50%).

• All kegs are collected and recycled.

• No waste from the production – everything is sorted and recycled.


0.6% of Denmark’s total CO2 emission originates from the production and sales of beer, soft drinks and mineral water and from the collection and recycling of the packaging. The CO2 emission from the industry is composed like this:

• 22% from the growing of cereals

• 7% from malting

• 19% from brewing and bottling

• 6% from distribution

• 46% from production of packaging materials, including recycling.