How to recycle waste properly in the Netherlands

Separating household waste is essential in order to ensure a cleaner environment and to support upcycling as much as possible. But what's far more important is making sure you are recycling your waste in a proper way!

Don't know where to start with your recycling journey? Let us introduce you to the general rules you should keep in mind when recycling in the Netherlands.

Separating household waste is an essential task that every citizen should concern themselves with in order to ensure a cleaner environment and to support upcycling as much as possible. But what's far more important is making sure you are recycling your waste in a proper way!

#1 Paper & Cardboard

The more paper we recycle, the fewer trees will be cut down for paper! Old paper and cardboard recycling containers can be found everywhere in the Netherlands. In these containers, you can place anything from newspapers, folders, envelopes, toilet rolls, and cardboard boxes. To recycle these items properly, they should be clean, dry, and free of any product residue. Flatten or tear cardboard boxes into pieces so that more can fit in the container. Any plastic leaflets should be removed from the cardboards before recycling. Used tissues or dirty pizza boxes do not belong in the paper waste bin either. Plasticized paper cannot be recycled and belongs in the residual container.

#2 Glass

One of the most environmentally friendly waste is glass. Glass can be reused endlessly, saving tons of raw materials along the way! Glass jars and bottles can be disposed of in special glass containers - you should be able to find one of these easily in the vicinity of your house. These containers can be used to dispose of glass bottles and jars in which drinks, food, cosmetics, perfumes, and medicines have been stored. Other types of glass, such as drinking glasses or bowls belong to the residual waste. Mirrors and window glass can be brought to a recycling center. Since the processing of glass includes the removal of lids, corks, and labels, you don't necessarily have to take those off before throwing away your glass, but it is important to empty them before disposal. Do you have separate bins for white, brown, and green glass? Then make sure to recycle your glass in the corresponding container. Red and blue glass can be disposed of in the green glass container too!

#3 Plastic packaging

Certain types of plastic packaging can be recycled and turned into new plastic products, such as shampoo bottles, lunch boxes, and buckets. Plastic packaging includes for example plastic yogurt cups, plastic fruit bowls, and plastic packaging for vegetables, bread, and toilet paper. To be sure which plastic packaging can be recycled, check the instructions on the packaging itself. In most municipalities, you will be able to recycle plastic packaging together with metal packaging (such as soda cans or food cans) and drinking cartons. Make sure to empty your packaging as much as possible before disposing of it. Processing plastic with half-full packaging will be more complicated and therefore slower.

#4 Textiles

Clothing, shoes, bags, curtains, or linen can all be recycled at your local recycling station, in the textile bin. These items should be clean and dry before disposal, meaning no paint or oil stains are allowed. Wet or dirty textiles can become moldy and ruin a whole recycling batch that is disposed of in the textiles bin! Place your clothes and other textiles in a sealed bag to make sure no moisture or dirt can get in. During the recycling process, good textiles will be resold and worn again, otherwise, they will be repurposed into new products, such as car seats or cleaning rags. Alternatively, if your clothes or shoes are still good to wear, you can sell them online, give them away to a charity, or take them to a thrift store.

#5 Batteries

Batteries are classified as small chemical waste, and contain harmful substances that must be processed carefully; the good news is - some of them can be recycled into new batteries! Never dispose of batteries in the residual waste, as they can cause a fire. In turn, bring your used batteries to shops that have battery collection bins or to a recycling center.

#6 Organic waste (GTF)

Veggies, fruits, and food leftovers can be placed in a special container for organic waste. This type of waste will then be collected, fermented, and composted into useful products, such as green gas, CO2, compost, and water. Although high-rise buildings do not usually have access to organic containers, low-rise houses have their own container for the collection of this waste.

#7 Residual waste

Waste that cannot be handed in separately can go into the regular residual waste. Diapers, cat litter, coffee cups, or broken wine glasses can be disposed of here. These products, unfortunately, cannot be recycled and they will be sent to a waste-to-energy plant, where they are incinerated and used to produce electricity. Are you not sure if an item is recyclable? You can use this handy website (Dutch only) from Milieu Centraal to check where you can dispose of your trash. 

#8 Bulky waste

Sometimes you might need to dispose of waste that is too large or heavy for the residual waste containers; for example, couches, chairs, washing machines or other big electronics, large garden waste, or mattresses. In this case, you can take your bulky waste to a recycling point for free! If you cannot bring the bulky waste to a recycling point yourself, you can schedule an appointment with your local municipality to have it collected at home, also free of charge! All you have to do is search for "bulky waste" or "grofvuil" in Dutch followed by the name of the city you live in and your municipality will provide you with information about the collection days and how you can make an appointment for the pick up of your bulky waste. Once you have an appointment, you're set! On the collection day, you will be able to place your waste on the sidewalk in front of your home or in a place where the garbage truck can easily reach it. Generally, you will have a time span of a few hours to place your waste on the street, normally by 7.30 in the morning of or on the evening before the collection day, starting from 22.00. These times may differ per municipality, so make sure to check your municipality's website for more information. It's important to not place your bulky waste next to underground rubbish containers, as the containers will not be able to be emptied.

#9 Recycled goods shops

If your items are still functional and you want to give them a second chance, you can choose to bring them to a recycled goods shop or "kringloopwinkel" in Dutch. Clothing, furniture, functioning televisions, can all be brought to these shops, sometimes even in exchange for a small pay! Make sure to discuss first with the shop owners what are the possibilities for your items.


written by Ana

I'm a cheerful and curious person, passionate about photography and everything that comes with it. As a fellow international, I moved to The Netherlands to study and decided to stay here after falling deeply in love with the culture, people and the beautiful Dutch cities and their canals!