It’s not only about garbage
2019-03-06 | By Deborah Valentine
There are many trials and tribulations when moving to a new country. While the monumental–housing, work, schooling–may seem overwhelming, it is often the little things that confound. Like how to dispose of your rubbish.
From country to country, there are many ways of getting rid of one’s rubbish. But you don’t know, until you know. Rubbish disposal is more than a practical matter, it’s a conscious act of recycling. From one experienced international, here are a few tips to help you manage this part of your new lives in the Netherlands.
It’s simple, really
In the Netherlands people take a pro-active responsibility in rubbish disposal. It is not ‘left’ to municipal authorities to pick up, sort and dispose, rather you will be expected to play a role, from sorting your refuse to, increasingly, taking your garbage bag to a nearby underground disposal container. Seems clear-cut, get the rules, follow them, right? But, things differ from municipality to municipality. So, once you know where you will live, some research is in order.
The process of separation
Garbage sorting generally starts in the home, where, at least, glass, paper and household waste are separated. Collection points for plastics are increasing, which means separating plastics first at home. Some municipalities will provide, upon request, bins for holding items like paper, organic and household waste, ensuring tidy streets and preventing animals from rummaging through your refuse.
Don’t simply leave larger items, such as old beds, larger toys, or mattresses, outside your home in the hope they will magically disappear. Municipalities provide drop-off points or a phone number to organise a pick-up of these items.
To be pro-active in your waste-disposal in the Netherlands, and find your way through the rules and regulations, here are some key words for your municipality’s website search bar.
- Afval (waste)
- Grofvuil (oversized waste) is household waste which doesn’t fit in a garbage bag, mini-container or underground rubbish container, or is too heavysuch as sofas, cupboards, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and large garden waste. Grofvuil requires pre-arranged collection via your municipality, or self-disposal at a afvalbrengstation or afvalscheidingsstation (waste separation and recycling stations). Certain cities may require an afvalpas (garbage pass), available through municipal websites. Some grofvuil items can be brought to or arranged to be picked up by a local kringloopwinkel (charity shop).
- Groente- fruit- en tuinafval (GFT) – vegetable, fruit and garden biodegradable waste is often collected separately in designated bins available from your municipality. Find information in your local afvalcalendar (garbage collection schedule). GTF might also be called groenbak (green bin).
- Ondergrondse afvalcontainers (ORAC) – are underground rubbish containers and usually separate for household waste, paper and glass. If the ORAC is full, do not leave your waste next to it, which can incur a fine. Report a full ORAC to your municipality.
- Elektrobakken – collection points for small electrical appliances, with separate boxes for batterijen (batteries) and gloeilampen (light bulbs). Energy-saving light bulbs and LED lamps don’t go in the elektrobak, but can be returned to many shops selling them or disposed of at recycling stations.
- Klein chemisch afval (KCA) – small household products, hazardous to the environment, which are dangerous to throw away with the regular household waste or to pour down the drain, sink or toilet. Should be separated from your household waste and taken to an afvalbrengstation.
- Textielafval – textiles are disposed for recycling in containers on the street, or given to local charity shops and organisations’ collections. Carpets and rugs, mattresses, duvets and pillows, and badlystained baby clothes, usually can’t be disposed here.
- Plastic/kunstof – items to be disposed of in plastic recycling bins tend to differ by municipality, but might include drankpakken (carton milk and drink packs) and drank en conservenblikjes (metal cans and aluminium tins). Check with your local municipality for guidance as what goes into plastic recycling bins. Some municipalities prefer plastic loose, while others only accept items in transparent bags.
It’s simple really
Disposal of rubbish in the Netherlands often sounds complicated, but it’s a combination of personal responsibility and local municipality rules and regulations that when done properly should work seamlessly. You just need to make sure you do it right, which often requires some research with your neighbours and local authorities. Then it’s one less thing to be overwhelmed by as you get settled.
Words to remember when separating and disposing
- Papier – paper, carton, goes in the papierbak
- Glas – glass, goes in the glasbak. Wit (white or clear) bont (coloured), groen (green), and bruin (brown)
- Statiegeld (deposit) – for some glass and plastic bottles returned to many grocery stores
- Afvalkalendar – dates when certain garbage is collected (check online by postal code).
About the author
Deborah Valentine is a seasoned expat–having lived in more than 10 countries, and is often overwhelmed by the simple task of taking out the trash.