Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment

Waste in the Netherlands


Courtesy of Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment

Household waste

More than 10% of waste arisings in the Netherlands consists of household waste. The local authorities are responsible for collecting this category of waste. A set of rules compels the local authorities to collect separately organic household waste, glass, paper and board, textiles and small chemical waste. The policy aims at giving producers more responsibility for their products at the waste stage: for packaging and batteries this has partially been achieved. In 1996 almost 44% of household waste was collected separately for recycling. The target for the year 2000 is 60%.


Household waste comprises all the waste arisings from private households with the exception of waste water and car wrecks.

This definition entails that larger components such as refrigerators, carpets, furniture, bulky garden waste and waste from conversion work, come under the heading of household waste. However, these larger components are often regarded as a separate category, i.e. bulky household waste. Such waste is not dealt with in this factsheet.

Tasks and targets

The recycling target for household waste as a whole is 60%. Recycling targets have also been formulated for separate components. For non-returnable glass packaging this is 90%, for paper and board 85% and for textiles 50%.

Quantities and composition

Total household waste arisings in 1996 amounted to 6,175,000 tons (the Netherlands has 15.5 million inhabitants, subdivided among 6.5 million households).

Of this quantity almost 44% was collected separately for reuse. The percentages for separate collection were as follows: 74% of the total amount of glass, 58% of the organic household waste, 47% of the paper and board, 21% of the textile and 1% of the plastic.

The composition of the remaining waste, that is to say the waste that is left once citizens have separated the diverse components and offered them for collection separately, was as follows in 1996: 33% organic household waste, 35% paper and board, 11% plastic, 5% glass, 4% ferrous, 1% non-ferrous, 3% textiles, 8% miscellaneous.

Responsibilities and organisation

The local authority is designated in the Environmental Management Act as the agency responsible for collecting household waste. The point of departure is that this waste, excluding bulky household waste, should be collected at least once a week near each premises within the municipal boundary. However, local authorities may deviate from this point of departure in the interests of a more efficient disposal of waste, for example by a different collection frequency or by not collecting in a certain part of the municipality.

The Environmental Management Act also obliges local authorities to collect organic household waste separately door-to-door. Here again there are the earlier mentioned opportunities of deviating from this obligation. As a result of provincial environmental regulations, local authorities are obliged to collect paper and board, glass, textiles and small chemical waste separately.

National uniformity
A survey was made between 1993 and 1995 to see whether a nationally uniform system for separately collecting dry components, from household waste for one, could be developed. This resulted in the following basic model:

glass collection by means of bottle banks; the guideline is one bottle bank for 650 inhabitants;
paper and board to be collected door-to-door at least once a month;
textiles to be collected door-to-door at least once every quarter as well as by textile banks.
This could raise the collection response for glass, paper and board, and textiles respectively to 90, 85 en 50%.

Since almost all household waste in the Netherlands is incinerated, a decision has been made to remove metals from the ashes after the waste has been incinerated. This will allow a minimum of 80% of metals to be recycled.

Techniques and opportunities for recycling plastic at the moment have been found to be limited and expensive. The extra recycling to be achieved by collecting plastic separately is slight, while the expense involved is disproportionately high. Hence it has been decided not to collect plastic separately for the time being. One option is to separate plastic from remaining waste prior to incineration. The VAM in Wijster is achieving separation of this kind.

The basic model described, including the isolation of metal from incineration ashes and the separate collection of organic household waste may lead to a recycling of approximately 60% of household waste by the year 2000. Agreements have been reached with the Waste Management Council (AOO, a partnership of the three tiers of government) on the introduction of the basic model.

Treatment and processing
The treatment and processing of separately collected components is carried out by the local authorities and industry. To give further shape to producer responsibility subcovenants will be signed at the end of 1997 for glass packaging, and paper and board. In these subcovenants, that are part of the Packaging Covenant II, the government and industry have agreed that collection is an affair for the local authorities and will be financed for the time being by the local authorities while transport from the collection point (bottle bank, local authority yard) and further processing will be arranged and paid for by the industry. In the event of the material collected having a market value, the local authorities will be recompensed. If the materials have a negative market value when they are handed over, the local authorities will be able to transfer the materials collected separately at no charge.

The collection and processing (sale, sale as raw material) of textiles has traditionally been a responsibility of charity organisations. In recent years recycling companies have also been focusing more on this waste component.

Final disposal
Under the Waste (Landfill Ban) Decree household waste may no longer be disposed at landfill sites from 1 October 1995. Only if there is a (temporary) shortage of incineration capacity, exemption from the landfill ban is granted. In 1998 the incineration capacity will be sufficient to incinerate all household and comparable industrial waste.


The average per capita waste levy has more than doubled since 1991 to 377 guilders in 1997. Although the levy seems to be stabilising, it is expected to peak in the years ahead at an average of 435 guilders per household (because of uncertainty on enddisposal rates, optimizing separate collection, etc.).

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