Edition 2020

Photo description: Backyard with several recycling containers all in a row.

How much do we recycle?

Households and companies produce mountains of waste. Waste production per inhabitant was 2.5 thousand kg in 2016. This waste includes all waste materials such as food waste, packaging, iron, paper, plastics, glass, chemical waste and construction waste. Part of that waste is incinerated, for energy generation, part is recycled, part is landfilled and part is exported. There has been hardly any development in the reuse of materials in recent years. Landfilling has decreased in recent years while incineration is on the rise.

Legendamounts in bn kgRe-exportsProcessed materials454145Domestic extraction116Material useImports (excl. waste)403Waste imports27BiomassFossilMetalMineralHow much do we recycle?
Re-exportsWaste63Material use169Exports354Loss128StocksEnergy consumption76Short-cycle products27Recycling52

If materials are reused in the production of goods, there is no need to extract or import scarce raw materials. This reduces pressure on the environment. The aim of a ‘circular economy’ is to be more economical with raw materials, limit waste production and reuse waste.

Waste treatment (2008=100)
Year Incineration Landfill and other Recycling and reuse
2008 100 100 100
2010 101 75.2 93.5
2012 114.1 74.1 97
2014 123.4 77.9 100
2016 128.2 63.6 100.2

Construction sector large waste processor

The construction industry is a major producer of waste. Nearly a quarter of all the materials generated by the construction sector consisted of waste. Waste made up around 10 percent of total output in the metal and food industries; in the agricultural sector, the figure is 8 percent.

Of all sectors, the construction sector also accounted for the largest share of recycled materials. Almost 38 percent of all the materials used in the construction sector were recycled materials. These were mainly mineral waste such as rubble, e.g. for road construction. On average, nearly 15 percent of the materials used in the production process in all sectors were recycled materials. The food industry uses many recycled resources, especially in the production of oils, fats and waxes as well as animal feed.

Use of recycled materials by sector/industry, 2016 (%)
Bedrijfstak Use of recycled materials
Water and
waste management
Construction 38
Timber and paper 29
Plastics 19
Machinery 13
Basic metals 12
Building materials 11
Agricultural products 10
Food 7
Electricity companies 7
Textiles 5
Chemical products 2
Metal products 1
Mining and quarrying 0
Petroleum 0
Electronics 0
Electrical equipment 0
Transport equipment 0
Repairs and
Services 0

Recycling champion

A waste mountain of 2.5 thousand kg per inhabitant is also very high for Europe, where the average in the 28 countries of the European Union is nearly 1.8 thousand kg per inhabitant.

The relatively high waste production is related to the fact that the Netherlands produces large quantities of goods for export, which causes waste generation in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands produces a lot of waste but is also one of the European countries where much waste is recycled. At 1.7 thousand kg of recycled waste per capita in 2016, the Netherlands ranks 3rd in the European Union (EU-28) after Luxembourg and Belgium.

The large amount of recycled waste per inhabitant shows how circular the Dutch economy is. Another indicator is the use of recycled materials in the production process. At 29 percent, the Netherlands’ use of recycled materials is the highest of the EU-28. The large-scale reuse of waste in the construction sector is an especially important contributor to this.

Use of recycled materials, EU-28, 2016 (%)
Land Share of recycling (% of total material use)
Netherlands 29.0
France 19.5
Belgium 18.9
United Kingdom 17.2
Italy 17.1
Estonia 11.8
European Union 11.7
Germany 11.4
Austria 10.6
Poland 10.2
Slovenia 8.5
Denmark 8.2
Spain 8.2
Czech Republic 7.6
Sweden 7.1
Luxembourg 6.5
Hungary 6.4
Finland 5.3
Malta 5.2
Slovakia 4.9
Lithuania 4.5
Croatia 4.4
Bulgaria 4.3
Latvia 3.9
Cyprus 2.3
Portugal 2.1
Ireland 1.7
Romania 1.5
Greece 1.3

The questions


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Explanation of symbols

Explanation of symbols
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* provisional figure
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Concept & image editing

Irene van Kuik


Anne Blaak

Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

Hendrik Zuidhoek


Ronald van der Bie

Kees Groenenboom

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

Michel van Kooten

Sidney Vergouw

Paul de Winden

Elma Wobma

Karolien van Wijk

Gert Jan Wijma


Gabriëlle de Vet

Frans Dinnissen

Final editing

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

We thank all other colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in Numbers.