We have been recyclers for years. We collected magazines and catalogs and some school papers as well as plastic jugs and bottles. We also recycled cardboard, some glass and batteries. We had bins in our garage for these items and every month or so, we would take paper, cardboard and plastic bottles to a bin up the street and glass and batteries to the recycling center. I thought we were doing pretty good. But recycling in The Netherlands is a different game. It is not mandatory to recycle here though I feel like most people do make an effort (at least around our neighborhood) as the city has made it pretty easy to do.
In my kitchen, I have 4 trash cans-1 is very small right next to the sink for greens (food and plant material). Then I have one average size trash for actual trash (I also have very small cans for trash in the bathrooms and laundry). I have two larger ones-one for paper and one for plastics. Then in the garage, I have a container for glass. Every Friday, the city comes to the house to collect from large bins that are stored to the side of our house. One week they come for trash and the next week they come for green waste. Then once a month, they pick up paper from another large bin. We are responsible for taking the plastics and glass to recycling locations throughout the city. Some glass can be recycled inside the grocery store for money back. In addition, inside some stores, they have bins for recycling lightbulbs and batteries. There are large bins all over the city for recycling plastics (which now includes plastic items as well as milk boxes and aluminum/tin cans. In addition, there are bins all over the city for all recycling categories to promote recycling and for people that live in apartments that can’t use home bins. They even have those bins for recycling clothing, shoes, and home goods for the Salvation Army throughout the city.
As the trash needs to fit into the bin, when we have large items, we have two options. We can either take the items to a recycling park ourselves and they will tell us which portion of the park it should be sorted into, or we can contact the city to come pick it up. For example, when we moved in, we had a lot of cardboard. We went on the city website, scheduled a pickup day and drug all of the cardboard to the end of our driveway. When I got home from dropping the kids at school, it was gone. We will have to schedule another pickup soon as we have both cardboard and a broken suitcase that we need to get rid of.
It takes a little extra work to empty four trashes into the bins outside or to haul items to a recycling bin in the city, but we generally don’t have to do it more than once a week. Our biggest complaint would be that they should have a bin for plastics at the house that they pick up as it seems the majority of our trash is plastic (especially now that it includes milk containers and cans). I understand that it’s a fairly recent change that allows all of those items in plastics though, so maybe at some point, they will do home pick up. In the meantime, we just drive our bags to one of the bins every week or two.
The recycling program in The Netherlands seems pretty solid, though I know that they still have discussions about what improvements can be made. We enjoy recycling our items and don’t feel that it’s too demanding. And surprisingly, when we have separated plastics, greens, glass and paper out, we have very little actual trash (though we do seem to need a lot of trash bags!).