Danish companies on the ascent: Toxic soil is big business in China

​Ejlskov, a small Danish company, has just been offered a project contract worth DKK 246 mill. The client is Chinese and the project calls for the clean-up of contaminated soil in the city of Nantong in collaboration with Chinese government-owned corporations. However the project is so extensive and China is so complex that both private and public Danish resources have to come into play in order to secure these contracts. This is a task that regions across Denmark will now be tackling collectively.

​Soil contamination in China is causing serious problems.  Particularly in the over-populated and heavily industrialised Chinese provinces, where development in recent years has seen cities expanding onto heavily contaminated industrial plots. 

The Chinese are faced with the immense challenge of removing pollution from these "chemical pits", or the so-called brownfield sites, that have been abandoned by industry in order to allow for housing construction and the establishment of agriculture. 

Regions open their doors to Danish companies

The city of Nantong, with its 8 million inhabitants, is no exception.  Nantong is located in the Jiangsu province, and it is here that the Aarhus-based company has come into play in order to deal with the issue. 

Ejlskov has begun a dialogue with the local municipal government in conjunction with events headed by the Capital Region of Denmark.  

Since January 2015, the Capital Region of Denmark has been in collaboration with Jiangsu province on matters concerning soil and groundwater pollution.  The objective of the collaboration is to create growth and new export-oriented "green" jobs. 

Among other things, this has been through building relationships with Chinese authorities and presenting Danish technology-based solutions to Chinese environmental challenges. 

"We were contacted by Nantong's deputy mayor i.e. at the highest political level, and invited to discuss the possibility of technological cooperation. This is a very significant matter in China and it is crucial that we follow it up properly.  This can only happen through Danish political support as a project this size must be approved at the highest level," said Bjørn Andersen, Chief Chemist at Ejlskov. 

This situation is just one example of how initiatives by Danish regions have cleared the way for potential sales opportunities in Chinese markets. The Central Denmark Region has also worked towards creating opportunities for Danish companies through its collaboration with Sichuan Province.

In collaboration with Horsens Municipality, VIA University College and the municipal government of Chengdu, the Central Denmark Region held a Green Tech Workshop last September at which Danish regulation and management of soil contamination, freshwater resources as well as sustainable energy solutions and rainwater management were presented. 

This has subsequently resulted in a request by the Chinese for offers of e.g. Danish-developed software. 

Regions manage the task together

The Capital Region of Denmark, the Central Jutland Region and the Danish Soil Partnership are now joining forces and strengthening their joint efforts.  This will happen by having the CLEAN cluster organisation assist Danish companies in matching Chinese demand.  

CLEAN supports Danish companies by defining Chinese demand while simultaneously assisting companies in forming consortia that are capable of supplying the right combination of counselling, products and service. 

Danish know-how is highly rated in China

Regulation on soil contamination has been in place in Denmark for more than 30 years.  Regions have considerable experience in managing the thousands of contaminated sites that exist in Denmark, ensuring soil contamination does not contaminate drinking water or the environment, or affect citizens' health.

The Chinese are particularly interested in the Danish model for detecting and registering soil contamination.  Therefore, regional understanding and know-how must come into play if these export ambitions to China are to be realized. 

Because of the many government-owned corporations in China, it is vital to maintain an active relationship with the government.  Maintaining good relationships at political level is vital to the success of large-scale commercial projects. 

Chairman of the Regional Council, Regional Council of Central Jutland, Bent Hansen (Danish Social Democrats) explained: 

"Danish companies are world-class in the field of soil remediation and groundwater management. They can present innovative and comprehensively tested methods and solutions to some of the environmental challenges faced by the Chinese.  As a government authority we can help open doors for the Danish environmental sector in China and thereby increase the potential of new green jobs for Denmark."

Sophie Hæstorp Andersen (Danish Social Democrats), Chairman of the Regional Council, Capital Region of Denmark, elaborated further: 

"Soil contamination knows no boundaries - neither regional nor national - and as they increasingly move to cities, Chinese citizens will need to live in healthy residential areas free from pollution. This is where the extensive cooperation between universities and companies to develop new soil-remediation methods can benefit China and Danish companies alike, as well as generate growth and workplaces in Denmark. "

The Danish engineering consultancy Geo, with expertise in the field of soil and water, stresses the need for collaboration between the authorities and the business community.  John Bastrup, project director at Geo said: 

"It is very important for us and our initiatives in China to have the support and backing of a public authority such as the Capital Region of Denmark. It is recognition of our work in the field of soil and water.  Recognition that we can present and actively use with the Chinese authorities and partners. We have received a large number of interesting inquiries that we have now been able to prioritize and categorize with e.g. help from CLEAN. "


  • ​Since January 2015 the Capital Region of Denmark has been in a collaboration with Jiangsu Province on matters concerning soil and groundwater pollution.  The collaboration is part of the Capital Region of Denmark's commitment in China to facilitate business development in Greater Copenhagen and Denmark. 

  • Since September 2015, the Central Denmark Region has together with the Danish Soil Partnership and VIA University College had a collaboration agreement with Sichuan Province on soil contamination.  The aim of the Central Denmark Region's involvement in Sichuan is to facilitate industry potential for Danish companies in the environment sector. 

  • Danish Regions collaborate with municipalities, water suppliers, universities and the private sector in order to achieve optimal solutions and to develop new methods of examining and remediating contaminated soil. This generates growth and more job opportunities for those working with green solutions. 

  • Collaboration on activities in China is being coordinated between several key Danish players, such as the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the Prime Minister's Office, Bycirklen, the Royal Danish House, Copenhagen Capacity and Invest in Denmark. 

  • Danish Regions spend  over DKK 400 mill. annually tracing, investigating and remediating contaminated areas, of which approximately DKK 30 mill. is spent on innovation and developing new techniques and methods.

  • Chinas soil contamination problems are enormous and the Chinese government has allocated DKK 500 mill. towards pollution clean up.

  • Learn more about CLEAN on their website​

For further information:

  • ​​​Gitte Larsen, acting Head of Unit at the Centre for Regional Development, Capital Region of Denmark, tel.+45 20 31 46 57

  • Public Relations for the Capital Region of Denmark, tel. +45 70 20 95 88

  • Morten Bondgaard, head of Department, Regional Development, Central Denmark Region, tel. +45 78 41 19 16

  • Kaspar Dam Mikkelsen, Head of Department Environment and Smart City, CLEAN, tel.+45 30 24 29 29

Responsible editor