Copenhagen initiative gives bottle collectors ‘dignity’

Danish capital introduces garbage bins with shelves to help those who make a living from collecting empties.

Five-hundred bins will be put up throughout the city [Copenhagen Municipality]
Five-hundred bins will be put up throughout the city [Copenhagen Municipality]

A new type of garbage bin has been introduced in the Danish capital to make bottle collection easier – a move the city’s deputy mayor says will give some marginalised citizens more “dignity”.

When buying a beverage in Denmark, customers pay $0.15-$0.44 for the bottle or can – money that is returned in bottle machines in grocery stores.

While not highly profitable, collecting bottles and cans from garbage bins is a source of income for many of Copenhagen’s homeless, pensioners, and other marginalised groups.

Over the summer, yellow bins with shelves on the sides were introduced where people could place their empty bottles – saving the collectors the inconvenience of digging through the smelly refuse.

Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s deputy mayor, said the initiative was good from an environmental point of view, keeping the city clean, “and at the same time, we make life easier and create a bit more dignity for some of our marginalised citizens, for whom deposits are an important source of income”.  

After the success of the pilot project in three Copenhagen districts, 500 bins will be put up throughout the city, at a cost of $177,000.

The idea came to light last summer as a group of residents put up home-made wooden boxes where people could leave empties for collectors.

“We hope this will spread as circles on the water to other cities that will take social responsibility for vulnerable people and do something for the environment,” said Michael Lodberg Olsen, one of the initiators.

The municipality said that every year, millions of dollars worth of deposits are lost in the garbage and never cashed in – something the new initiative could change.

According to a survey from the city’s technical and environmental committee, the deposit shelves cut down lost deposits by up to 49 percent in the trial areas.

The number of homeless people in Denmark is on the rise, according to the Danish National Centre for Social Research, which found a 23 percent increase since 2009.

There are now an estimated 6,138 homeless people nationwide, the centre said in a September report.

Source: Al Jazeera


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