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490 kilos of waste. That's what we throw away. Per person, per year. That's eight billion kilos of waste, per year, in the Netherlands. All this waste has to be processed, because as soon as we throw something in the bin, it has not disappeared. To process all this waste, different systems have been devised, including pre-separation and post-separation. There is often a lack of clarity about what these terms mean and why one is used in one place and another in another. We explain the answer to this to you here.  

What is source separation? 

By source separation, we mean that you as a resident separate your waste yourself at home. In this way, many more types of waste are separated than with subsequent separation by machine. The raw materials you separate at home can be very well recycled. Besides source separation, the terms home separation and pre-separation are also used. 

What is post-separation? 

In post-separation, a machine at a plant separates residual waste. This preserves valuable materials that we would otherwise have to incinerate. The machine can by no means separate all types of waste. Especially plastic packaging, metal packaging and drink cartons (pmd) can be separated from residual waste with post-separation. Separating organic waste, paper, cardboard, packaging glass and textiles afterwards is technically not (yet) possible.

Which is better: separation at source or post-separation with a machine?

Which method is best depends on circumstances and location. Some municipalities choose source separation, others prefer post-separation, and still others opt for a combination of source and post-separation.
Post-separation with a machine always complements source separation. In low-rise houses, source separation produces the best quality raw materials. It is also the cheapest way to separate waste. In flats and flats, it is less easy to separate waste at home. There, post-separation with a machine is a better choice to still be able to recycle valuable raw materials such as plastic packaging, metal packaging and drink cartons.

Why do municipalities choose a different way of collecting residual waste and pmd from flats, flats and upper dwellings?

Home separation with containers is very successful at low-rise buildings in our region. It produces the best quality raw materials. It is also the cheapest way to separate waste. For high-rise buildings, collection in collection containers for PMD is a lot more difficult. This is also a national picture. 

By opting for post-separation of PMD from residual waste in high-rise buildings, we need to incinerate less residual waste expensively. And so we can recycle more. That is why post-separation of PMD is the best choice for high-rise buildings.

Less residual waste through better separation 

Some people think that all the waste ends up back in one pile anyway. This is not true. This is because our collection trucks collect the same type of raw material each time. However, it is important that the waste is properly separated. VGF (vegetable, fruit and garden waste and food leftovers), for example, should be separated from other types of waste as much as possible. VGF waste is generally wet and dirty, sticking to other waste. As a result, residual waste cannot be sorted as well during the post-separation process and plastic is burned unnecessarily. Separating VGF waste properly at the source creates a drier residual waste flow, giving us better results in post-separation. VGF waste is also not waste, but fully raw material for compost or biogas, among other things! So it is a shame to throw it away with residual waste!  

Therefore, if different types of waste are mixed together, it cannot be recycled properly and unfortunately still has to go with the residual waste and is incinerated. This is unfortunate because raw materials are lost that way.

Tips to make waste separation easier

  1. Use separate bins for different types of waste, such as paper, gft, pmd and residual waste. 
  1. Pay close attention to which waste belongs in which container. Not sure which container a product or material belongs in? The separation guide helps!  
  1. Empty your packaging before throwing it away. This applies to pmd, for example, where it is important that the containers are empty to recycle them properly. 
  1. If you are supposed to separate pmd, you should put plastic packaging with the pmd and not with the residual waste. This also applies to drinks cartons and metal packaging. 
  1. Make sure your waste is properly separated before you throw it away. This way, we can make good use of raw materials and reduce the burden on the environment. 

Separating waste: important for the environment and your wallet 

It is therefore important to separate waste properly. There are two ways to separate waste: source separation and post-separation. In source separation, you already separate different types of waste at home, while in post-separation it is done in a factory. Both ways have advantages: post-separation serves convenience, but with source separation, raw materials are of better quality so they can be better recycled. The important thing is that we are all aware of the importance of waste separation and do our best to do it properly. In this way, together we can contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable world. 

Why is waste being imported from Italy?  

Italy has insufficient capacity to process residual waste. After a major fire at Rome's largest waste treatment plant in 2022, the new plant is not expected to be operational until 2026. Until then, the residual waste has to go somewhere. The Netherlands has a large incineration capacity because of its high rate of separate collection and recycling (60%) of waste. This leaves less residual waste to be incinerated. 

If Italy cannot incinerate the residual waste, it has to be landfilled, which is the most harmful to the environment. Landfills create methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times stronger than CO2. 

It is therefore very important to separate and recycle waste and raw materials properly. By reducing residual waste and reusing and recycling more, we need to use fewer natural resources. What is burned once cannot be reused. If residual waste remains after separation, it must be incinerated. The cost of this will rise in the coming years, due to processing costs and taxes, for instance. Less residual waste is therefore good for both the environment and your wallet.

Test your knowledge with the Waste Separation Quiz 

Wondering what kind of waste separator you are? Take the quiz and find out what you already know about waste separation. At the end of the quiz, you will receive tailored advice to increase your knowledge.  So what are you waiting for? Let's work together for a cleaner and more sustainable future! 

Test your knowledge with the Waste Separation Quiz

Styrofoam, an empty pizza box or a broken drinking glass. Do you know what belongs in which bin?
Take the quiz and find out what you already know about waste separation.
At the end of the quiz, you will receive tailored advice to increase your knowledge.

> To the quiz


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