Waste recycling

In the period 2000-2014, the percentage of recycled waste in the Netherlands fluctuated around 80 percent. The majority of generated waste is construction and demolition waste. Recycled waste can substitute primary raw materials and reduce the need for them as a result.

The issue

The quantity of waste produced is an indicator of pressures on the environment. Various strategies are applied to reduce environmental pressures due to waste production. The most effective way is to limit waste generation as much as possible (prevention policy). Other ways include reuse, recycling, recovery, energy recovery, incineration and, finally, waste disposal (landfilling).
The transition from landfilling to recycling and recovery leads to reduced environmental pressures. Furthermore, effective recycling and reuse of waste are key to the green growth strategy because reusing materials often has a lower impact on the environment than using primary materials. More jobs are created by recycling than by other waste treatment methods and it also retains the intrinsic material value.

Analysis

During the years 2000-2014, a major shift took place in waste treatment processes, from disposal to incineration. This transition was caused by, for example, more stringent legislation on waste treatment, as outlined in the National Waste Management Plan (www.lap3.nl). Nowadays, mainly non-combustible waste such as soil and asbestos is disposed of in landfills as it is difficult to recycle. This also applies to residual household waste, which is a very large waste stream and hard to recycle. However, several new mixed-waste processing facilities (MWPFs or dirty MRFs) are under construction which enable recycling part of this residual household waste as well. The share of recycled waste remained fairly stable during the period 2000-2014, ranging between 80 and 83 percent. High recycling rates apply to construction and demolition waste, glass and paper.

International comparison

With a recycling rate of 80 percent, the Netherlands ranks second on the list of OECD countries. Only Slovenia ranks higher with 85 percent. The high recycling rate does not apply to all waste streams. Municipal waste collected by municipalities has a much lower recycling rate. For this type of waste stream, the Netherlands scores just above average. The same goes for hazardous waste. The Netherlands occupies eleventh place for recycling this type of waste.