national icons & strategy for recycling


Ministry of Environment & Food
KL – Local Government Denmark
Danish Waste Association


icon design & strategy for circular economy

futu designs the first unified visual language for recycling in Denmark and co-create national guidelines for waste operation. The icon design makes it easier for everyone to sort waste and contribute to a sustainable future. While a national strategy for recycling provides a shared path towards circular economy for industries and authorities.

the future

Futu has worked intensively with waste sorting, waste management and circular economy in Denmark for years. We have developed the first shared national system for waste sorting in Denmark, against all odds. Within the first 2 years, 61 municipalities embraced the solution.
The icon design was nominated and finalist in the Danish Design Award in the category Outstanding Service.

united visual language

98 Danish municipalities collect waste bins from 2,6 m households every week and provide +350 recycling facilities.
Over decades the concept of a united visual language to guide citizens has been discussed. But until recently it has been too difficult to overcome local, national, private, political, technical and cultural differences. However, using design thinking and multiple co-creation methods, a shared system of icons developed and designed by futu is now implemented nationwide.

recycling made easier

With a shared visual language set for all citizens, next step was to make industries and authorities co-create and buy-in to a set of guidelines for waste operation. In-depth research and intense co-creation resulted in a set of guidelines, that can now streamline the national opinion of what kind of waste go where, e.g. where to sort your used pizza box or light bulb. Result?
Waste sorting and recycling made easier for everyone.

large scale co-creation

The icons are designed in co-creation with +2500 people, from kids to recycling experts; through workshops, voxpops, on-site
test, online surveys, design sprints and gamification.

huge citizen reach

It’s voluntarily to use the icons but within the first 2 years 61 municipalities, covering a potential of +3.000.000 citizens, embraced the system and implemented the icons or are about to in various ways. The initial first-year goal was 10 municipalities.

icons and colors
are designed as a
building block concept

“The icons will help us maximize the resources and reach the 50% target
for recycling of household waste in 2022”

says Jørn Pedersen, chair of the environment committee,
Local Government Denmark

Icons and colors are designed as a building block concept where an icon works on its own as well as in different combinations according to local user-customized ways of sorting.

In complex spaces such as recycling stations with 50 different types of waste the icons play an important role empowering people to sort the right way as well as providing a guidance tool for staff.

can change
the world

in use by
+3.000.000 people

more info


Lotte Nystrup Lund
Head of strategy, Partner
+45 42801866

Ann Harpøth Thor
Head of design, Partner
+45 40851866

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