The Nordic Waste scandal

The Nordic Waste scandal

Renders Municiplity.

The Nordic Waste scandal has brought attention to the environmental hazards posed by a massive landslide that occurred at one of its facilities in Ølst, Denmark, last December.

In December 2023, a thunderstorm caused a massive landslide at one of Nordic Waste’s facilities in Ølst, Denmark. Nordic Waste is a company specializes in processing polluted soil from industry and its shareholder is Danish billionaire Torben Østergaard-Nieelsen. Millions of tons of contaminated soil flowed towards the nearest river, caused by bout of extreme weather seen during winter, posing a significant ecological disaster threat that could lead to pollution of waters and the local landscape.

What happened?

December 16th, 2023, the municipality of Randers had decided to activate the measures of mitigation due to danger of significant pollution of Alling Å. These measures of mitigation were to be implemented at the expenses of the company Nordic Waste (Law regarding the protection of environment comma 70, sec.1).

On December 17th, Nordic Waste agreed on the potential environmental consequences of the situation and handed the plant to Randers Municipality.

The company has announced on December 19th that they had stopped the work on preventive measures, as they believed there were enough opportunity to take sufficient measures to stop the landslide. Randers Municipality therefore had to implement a series of measures in self-help to avert imminent risk to Alling Å.

In January the authorities had ordered the company to move some of 8,000 tonnes of polluted earth from Ølst facilty landfill at Fasterholt near Herning, to avoid environmental damages during the heavy snow falls.

Randers Municipality’s lawyers concluded, after investigation, that the company was responsible for the landslide and therefore filed a police report against the company. The argumentation they have presented was that the gradient of the contaminated earth piles at the company’s facility were too steep. However, the company replayed stating that the number of the municipality’s reports from the inspections done prior to the landslide are quite unreliable (newspaper Børsen 2024) to which the municipality has admitted but that the liability for the landslide is on Nordic Waste.

Why was the soil moving.

Søren Munch Kristiansen, an expert from Aarhus University, attributes the phenomenon of contaminated soil glacier moving at a rapid pace of 30 to 40 centimeters per hour near a Nordic

Waste facilityto the unique properties of the soil, which behaves like a bar of soap on a wet surface when moist. The clay composition, deposited millions of years ago, prevents water seepage but becomes extremely slippery when wet.


Ølst report, December 2023 (Renders Municipality)


Report on situation between Dec-Jan. (Renders Municipality)


Was it caused by natural event or by human activity?

United Shipping and Trading Company, appointed by Nordic Waste, had initially blamed the landslide on climatic conditions beyond its control. They stated that the area has been exposed to a great amount of rain, which has resulted to a natural disaster.

However, a report by the Geological Survey (GEUS) stated that it was the continuous deposit of soil on top of a sloping clay pit at Nordic Waste the main cause of the landslide.

Who is accountable?

The Danish government did not exclude the potential role of Randers Municipality in the landslide scandal and Environment Minister Mangus Heunicke opened an inquiry to determine who was responsible.

However, Denmark’s wealthiest families finds themselves at the center of controversy following the bankruptcy declaration of Nordic Waste. Torben Østergaard-Nielsen, along with his daughters, holds significant ownership in Nordic Waste, yet despite their substantial wealth, they appear reluctant to foot the cleanup bill, which is estimated to exceed DKK 200 million.

The bankruptcy ruling revealed that among the creditors seeking compensation, Østergaard-Nielsen’s own companies, DSH Recycling and DSH Environment, are demanding a total of DKK 75.2 million from the bankruptcy estate. With the family holding a 78 percent stake in these companies, their combined claim amounts to DKK 58.7 million.

Legal experts assert that it is within the rights of these companies to file claims in the bankruptcy estate, albeit with slim chances of receiving full compensation due to their status as “simple claims,” which typically rank low in priority for repayment to creditors. To which Mangus Heunicke replied that with this decision the company showed a “lack of societal responsibility”.

In conclusion, the Nordic Waste scandal, triggered by a massive landslide last December, has brought to light the devastating consequences of environmental negligence. The government must determine whether all responsibility should rely on Nordic Waste company or if Renders

Municipality should be also held accountable due to lack of providing precise data on reports in previous year. Despite the company’s failure, the government pledges to exhaust all available resources to ensure that Nordic Waste and Renders Municipality will bear the costs of the cleanup and any damages incurred. Facing bankruptcy complicates assigning greater responsibility to the company. However, the order to the company to move some 8,000 tonnes from Ølst facility still stands and is important to avoid environmental damage.




“There’s polluted dirt coming down that hill”: Danish village faces threat from Nordic Waste landslide. (2024, February 8). The Local Denmark.


Petley, D., & Petley, D. (2024, January 23). The Nordic Waste landslide scandal in Denmark. Eos.


Euronews. (2024, January 20). Nordic Waste faces criticism over bankruptcy scandal. Euronews.


Ny rapport: Enorme mængder jord er i bevægelse hos Nordic Waste. (n.d.). Randers Kommune.


Miljøresultater på vandmålinger omkring Nordic Waste. (n.d.). Randers Kommune.


Første miljøresultater på vandmålinger omkring Nordic Waste er klar. (n.d.). Randers Kommune.


Business-update: Torben Østergaard-Nielsen bliver udskældt, men en anden har tjent millioner på Nordic Waste. (2024, February 1).


Danmarks og grønlands geologiske undersøgelse rapport 2024/12 (GEUS)