Our columnist Paul van der Werf is on the Netherlands Waste and Wastewater Themed Trade Mission (23-27 May 2016). Some insights follow:
The Dutch think about their waste--a lot. Viewed from afar they are often viewed as a land of waste diversion opportunities worth emulating. It becomes quickly apparent that most of this stature is a result of attitude.
It is this attitude, and the policies it spawns, that sends clear signals to the marketplace, spurring the development and implementation of new technologies or the re-application of old ones. It is a sense of the policies and the implementation of technologies that we see.
The Dutch are not super human. They generate waste like the rest of us (albeit less than we do) and dispose it. Dutch consumption is, on the whole, noticeably less than North American consumption.
At the single family level they have multiple carts for various streams that they need to present at the curb for collection. They have many residents living in multi-residential households and that have to bring various waste streams to centralized bins. Their challenges are similar to our own. For instance single-family residents don’t want too many carts because they can clutter their small front yards. Multi-residential residents need to walk their various waste streams to centralized bins and this results in waste diversion challenges.
Overarching waste management policy comes from the European Union. Waste management is co-ordinated nationally with the co-operation of provincial and local governments. This differs considerably from our own waste management system where much of waste management is municipally driven, albeit with some provincial strategies and regulations of various strengths but with no to little enforcement. For non-hazardous waste streams there is essentially no federal government involvement.
What’s important to understand is that while the Netherlands may appear a Utopia for waste management solutions it is not without its own challenges. The key again is attitude. Translated this an optimistic “state of mind” where the end goal is known, the challenges and its solutions are identified and solutions tested.
What does all this mean? For organics, for instance, the average Netherlands resident diverts 250 kg/year while we divert about 70 kg/capita/year. Of course, our context is different with lots of wide-open spaces without the critical mass of population to make non landfilling options cost effective. However, attitude can trump geography and the local context to find relevant solutions. A problem, any problem, is just a well thought out solution away from being solved. Co-ordinate that mind set and you can actually get something done.
Read more about Paul's trade mission here >>
Paul has published a number of blogs on his adventures at the trade mission >> and will continue to post for the rest of the week. Check in frequently for updates!