New waste separation bins at Port Esbjerg for easy and sustainable sorting

As part of its efforts to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Port Esbjerg developed a new type of waste separation bin that will ensure sustainable sorting, spare employees’ backs and reduce incineration and landfill. The initiative receives high praise from users, and the hope is that sustainable thinking will form part of other initiatives at the harbour.

One thousand tonnes a year. This is how much waste Port Esbjerg gets from ships calling at the port. Until now, the level of recycling has been 20 per cent, but this level must increase which is why Port Esbjerg organised for new waste separation bins to be produced in order to ensure sustainable sorting.   
‟We get so much waste and we have a duty to accept it. This is an area where we can really make a difference in terms of sustainability and protection of the environment,” says Jane Behrens von Qualen, HSEQ Manager at Port Esbjerg.

As part of its efforts to support the UN’s SDGs, Port Esbjerg formulated an objective to increase the level of recycling. No actual figures are stipulated as to how much of an increase, but the waste must be separated and recycled, so much less is incinerated or sent to landfill.

‟There will always be a proportion that will have to be incinerated, but the objective is to recycle as much as possible,” explains Behrens von Qualen. Port Esbjerg developed the prototype itself for the waste separation bin. It was tested during the autumn of 2019 and is now part of day-to-day life at the harbour.


Port Esbjerg developed a new type of waste separation bin that will ensure sustainable sorting.

An excellent solution for the users – and for the working environment

In order to succeed in implementing the new waste sorting initiative, Port Esbjerg prioritised making it simple for the users. The ships observe the MARPOL convention which dictates the fractions into which the waste must be divided, and the separation bins are therefore divided in the same way. There are fractions such as paint, glass, oil filters, metal and large batteries.

‟We copied the way in which ships already organised their waste separation and that means we’re now speaking the same language. It makes the work easier for everyone. In addition, it’s important that users and employees were involved in the entire process, and they all think very highly of the end result,” says John Fritsen, a team leader in the operations department at Port Esbjerg.

The ships may book waste separation bins with room for up to 14 different waste fractions. However, they can also book separation bins with room for much fewer waste fractions if, for example, they have large quantities of one specific type of waste. So far, there are eight separation bins at the harbour, and ships may book one 24 hours before they arrive at the port.

Fritsen makes a point of emphasising that in addition to being a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution, the new separation bins are also good for the working environment at the harbour.

‟In the past, employees at the harbour were required to drive around to collect the separated waste which the ships had left on the quay. That meant they would have to lift potentially heavy objects, and they also risked getting into contact with, for example, batteries. Now, we can just remove the separation bins using a forklift truck and drive them away. This is a huge improvement for the working environment,” explains Fritsen.


The new type of waste separation copies the way in which ships already organize their waste separation. This strategy is supposed to make it simpler for the users.

From physical separation bins to heightened awareness

Even though the separation bin is a smart idea, it is not just the physical bin that is important to Port Esbjerg. The initiative is about something much greater.  

‟The new waste separation bin is brilliant but rather simple. It is a tool to raise awareness about sustainability and waste sorting generally. With the new bins, we become part of the value chain and life cycle process, and they are designed based on a holistic approach to waste sorting: how did it come about, how may it be recycled, where does it end up?” explains Jesper Bank, CCO at Port Esbjerg.

The idea is that the holistic approach and increased awareness will recur in other contexts. For instance, in the way that green areas are maintained and how vehicles are serviced when it is not just about changing the oil. The employees should also have an understanding of the type of oil that is used, how much CO2 it releases and where the oil finally ends up.

‟Our initiatives in this area are very physical and concrete, and that’s how it should be, because it’s a way of highlighting them and focusing on them in day-to-day situations. We have not launched an invisible sustainability policy. We have taken measures that you can actually see and touch. Exactly like the new waste separation bins,” says Bank.


"The new waste separation bin is brilliant but rather simple. It is a tool to raise awareness about sustainability and waste sorting generally," says Jesper Bank, CCO at Port Esbjerg.

Port Esbjerg wants to be a source of inspiration

Port Esbjerg’s preliminary target is to have 20–25 waste separation bins at the harbour. The next step will be to write a document for the users, explaining everything about the bins. It is essential that everybody knows exactly how to use the bins as well as how and when they may be booked.  

In the longer term, the plan is to record waste quantities digitally and issue users with digital receipts. The digitalisation of the bins will also reduce the time spent on administration. Port Esbjerg would be only too pleased to share its knowledge and its invention.

‟Other interested parties would be very welcome to be inspired by our waste separation bins. But we are always thinking ahead, and the bins would also need further development. However, at the moment, the sustainability concept is the most important thing,” concludes Bank.   


Port Esbjerg’s preliminary target is to have 20–25 waste separation bins at the harbour. The next step will be to write a document for the users, explaining everything about the bins. 

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