Waste separation in the Netherlands: why it’s the best

Waste separation in The Netherlands contributes to making the Dutch the best waste managers in Europe.

I sometimes wonder why The Netherlands’ colour is orange, when a lot of what they do is painted with green. From crazy renewable energy projects to citizen-led initiatives against food waste, the Dutch are famous for their Go-Green attitude. A clear example is waste separation in The Netherlands. Waste separation is part of a bigger Dutch commitment to have top-notch waste management policies, and pro-environmental citizens. This commitment has placed The Netherlands on the forefront of waste management in Europe.

Waste separation in The Netherlands appears to be a national past-time. A survey released by the TNT post revealed that waste separation is the Dutch’s favourite pro-environmental measure. So, how does waste separation in The Netherlands work exactly? Well, there’s a lot of layers and levels to examine, so let’s get to it!

Time for some waste management!

National and international commitment: the Dutch leading the way

Sometimes the Dutch ‘green priority’ is put on the hot seat. Other times, it’s put in the spotlight and set as the standard. A 2012 report of the European Commission graded 27 EU countries on different aspects of European waste management legislation. Waste generated, waste collection, waste recycling and recovery and landfill creation, were some of the criteria analyzed. The Netherlands ranked at the top of this list. Just add it to the list of things the Dutch are great at!

Something worth taking a look at, that goes beyond the scope and focus of this article, is how The Netherlands prioritizes following the ‘waste management hierarchy’. Policies and citizen involvement work together for the least amount of waste. This hierarchy “indicates an order of preference for action to reduce and manage waste from most favourable to least favourable actions.”. Also called the ‘Lansink’s Ladder’ (named after the ex-Dutch politician that proposed it back in the 70s), is visible in The Netherlands waste management actions.

So, how do the Dutch do it? Is it all policy and government? Or do the citizens play a role in this? Definitely both, but household waste separation in The Netherlands is definitely a strong starting point. Dutchies are very keen on separating their waste, and municipalities encourage people to do so. Every city has different rulings, knowing your city’s can save you from getting a fine, and lets you be part of the solution! Let’s take a look at how Amsterdam works with waste separation.

Waste separation in Amsterdam

Most neighbourhoods have different bins used for different types of waste. Amsterdam has bins for the following types of waste:  glass, paper, plastic packaging and drinks cartons, shoes textiles, and ‘residual waste’. People separate their waste and place it in their corresponding bins. Some neighbourhoods do not have bins, and people take out their trash for collection on specific days no earlier than 21:00. Doing it before can result in a fine.

Specific types of waste like household chemicals/waste (leftover paint, expired medicine and/or used light bulbs), can be taken to places like supermarkets or pharmacies for proper disposal. Lastly, bulky waste like kitchen and washing appliances, can be left out in specific locations for pick up, in specific days as well. For more information on Amsterdam’s rules of waste separation/recollection, check out this link.

Waste separation in the Netherlands: a priority for all, for all the good reasons

I come from a city that has the highest levels of air pollution in Mexico. Some people blame the government, others blame the citizenship. Whoever is to blame, both the top and the bottom are not working together. This is the opposite in The Netherlands.

Both the authorities and the people seem to be on the same page. The Netherlands didn’t make it to the ‘top of the charts’ in the waste management scene on policies alone. It starts at the household, where Mevrouw van der Schaap takes her time to separate paper from glass. It seems that people know that ‘going green’ is the right way to go, and the State facilitates this with proper rulings and facilities. While there is always room to improve, it is safe to say that The Netherlands sets a valuable lessons for the rest of European countries and abroad.

What do you think of waste separation in The Netherlands? Let us know if you have any stories about this subject in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

Renan Alejandro Salvador Lozano Cuervo
Renan Alejandro Salvador Lozano Cuervo
Pannenkoek en poffertjes connoisseur/expert. Mexican that came for the graduate education, stayed for the stroopwafels and bikes. Ask me how to make the perfect guacamole, and about the hot spots in The Hague.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately for me that’s not completely true – I’m living in Alkmaar and find waste disposal extremely hard there. I have one main garbage bin in my street, no glass disposal or paper disposal anywhere near, organic matter is not picked up in my street and plastic isn’t either. Very sad when you want to do good for our planet!

  2. I am an avid supporters of segregation, in my neighbourhood we have all the bins needed except for the old clothes but in some places in Amsterdam don’t even have a bin for plastic waste.

  3. And since sexism swings both ways, I think that you should be aware that in many households, it is not “Mevrouw” taking the time to separate it all out, but is indeed “Menheer.”

  4. When it comes to separate b io from everything else, then this is true, we do have two bins one for bio and one for non-bio. However, when it comes to recycle paper, plastic, glass or oil, the number of containers in my area (outskirts of Leiden) is really inssuficient. As a result, I do not recycle plastic, neither oil. This, of course, is just one observation applying to one particular area in The Netherlands, so it does not represent the norm, of course. However, this: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/waste-recycling-1/assessment-1 is a study done by the European Environment Agency, and no, Netherlands is not top 1.

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