As promised in my previous blog post about my newly implemented trash cans, this blog post is dedicated to the process of sorting out my ‘maybe’ pile – all the garbage that I wasn’t sure where to put.
Let the sorting begin!
Our first contestant today is the onion packaging from the famous local supermarket, Albert Heijn.
I was scratching my head, whether the net is plastic, and whether the label is considered paper.. Honestly, I had no idea.
And then at one point I noticed, I was making this way harder for myself than I should – the packing was telling me what to do! Literally! It uses little logos as instructions to save me from all this trouble. See how it says:
– NET: bij plastic, so the net clearly goes into plastic,
– OVERIG: bij restafval, so anything but the net goes into the normal trash.
Phew! That was easy!
Moving on to the next item: the bottle for cooking cream. Before thinking too much I started looking at the packaging in detail, and sure enough, I was just as lucky as in the previous case, as this was also ‘self-sorting’ garbage: the packaging clearly tells me what to do with it, very specifically for each part:
– the little tin foil that seals it goes into normal trash
– the bottle goes into plastic
Next item: blister packaging of pills. I’m pretty sure this goes into ‘restafval’, but I wanted to doublecheck if it doesn’t qualify for some other bucket. And that’s when I stumbled on a website that is specifically dedicated to nothing else but to help you figure where to throw stuff. It’s called the Afvalscheidingswijzer, done by the Milieu Centraal and it’s brilliant. It’s basically the Dutch Put-What-Where dictionary for trash.
You basically start typing in anything, and it will give you suggestions on what you might mean.
Once you figure out what is the thing you are looking for in Dutch (great way to learn new words), you just click enter and then it tells you where it belongs. So in case of the blister pack of pills, it goes into the leftover trash.
I couldn’t stop at this point, so I had to check: and yes, sure enough, Afvalscheidingswijzer exists in the form of a smartphone app too (the Netherlands never ceases to amaze me in this regard)! It’s available for both Android and iOS.
So from here on I tried checking each and every item through these services.
For plastic packaging of meat from the supermarket for example it gives quite a long description of how it differs per Gemeente how it’s dealt with (in Amsterdam it goes into the plastic bin). It also answers all those additional questions you might have, like that it should be delivered ‘schud- en schraap-schoon’ = shake and scrape clean, and that the stickers on it are no problem.
Next in line was the piece of styrofoam in my pile. Now, I’m already aware that not all plastic goes into the plastic bin, and I had a feeling that this is not the simple type of plastic, so I did some investigation. After some googling I eventually figured that in Dutch it’s called ‘piepschuim’ (literally beep-foam, don’t ask me why). As it turns out, it indeed doesn’t go into plastic, and the big chunks (so from the packaging of say, machines) are actually supposed to be taken to a Milieustraat = recycling center or put out with the bulk-waste (what the entails might take up a whole other chapter on its own by the way).
Lucky for me, ‘dirty’ pieces like the tiny styrofoam pieces at the bottom of meat packages are to be put into the normal trash.
The remaining packaging part, as discussed above, goes into plastic (if not too dirty).
Last but not least, I took on the challenge of sorting out the label of a sweater.
I was both annoyed and amazed by the effort and amount of materials that were used to create this piece of something, not even sure what to call it, maybe I can go as far as calling it art, not sure. What’s for sure is that it’s a thing that is eventually definitely going to end up being trash either way. Anyway, as much as I could figure, I ended up separating it by:
– putting the cardboard into paper
– putting the little rope into ‘restafval’
– putting the little metal thingie also into restafval.
I’m pretty sure the latter is wrong, as metal is categorised as something that is supposed to by recycled at the Milieustraat points, but I’m also pretty sure that they will laugh at me if I go there and show up with a tiny piece of metal like this, and I also wouldn’t make the trip for so little. On the other hand, maybe I should start having a metal pile… Will have to think about that!
So learnings from this exercise: recycling is time-consuming, but the more often you do it, the more you learn and the more you get used to it.
For example by now if you’ve been reading my blog you know that in Amsterdam:
- the main recyclables are Paper, Glass, Plastic
- ‘self-sorting trash’ has instructions on it to tell you where it belongs
- tools can help you sort further: Afvalscheidingswijzer website and apps (Android, iOS)