In the Netherlands, waste production per inhabitant is slightly below the EU average. This is related to its trading and service-based economy, which produces relatively low volumes of waste compared to industrial economies. How is all of this waste processed? How much waste is landfilled or incinerated and how much is recycled? How is this organised in other countries?
Waste is still processed in many different ways across Europe. This also applies to household waste. Common methods in Western European countries including the Netherlands involve recycling and composting of waste as well as combustion for power generation. In Southern and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, at least half of all municipal waste is disposed of in landfills. Only a small percentage is incinerated or processed differently.
Processing of household waste varies widely between EU countries. In the Nordic countries as well as in the Netherlands, only small volumes of household waste are landfilled or incinerated. In Cyprus and Malta, this applies to the bulk of household waste – some 500 kg per inhabitant. Only a few percent of the waste is recycled.
Recovery of scarce materials
In recent years, more focus has been put on the recovery of raw materials from discarded electrical and electronic devices (e-waste). One reason is that these products contain valuable, scarce and precious raw materials such as gold. Another reason would be to become less dependent on countries like China, which are dominating this part of the raw materials market.
Sweden leading in e-waste collection
As of 2012, a European directive has been implemented to promote the reuse, separate collection and recycling of e-waste. Within the European Union, Sweden is a front runner in terms of collecting waste equipment. The Netherlands ranks in the middle: 24 kg of electrical and electronic equipment is disposed of per inhabitant, of which around 9 kg (39 percent) is collected and recycled. At the same time, Dutch households have purchased new or other appliances. The amount of equipment (including solar panels) put on the Dutch market in 2016 stood at approximately 22 kg per inhabitant.